ST. GEORGE – Dorchester County, like many other counties in South Carolina, has seen its population increase over the years and authorities now need to ensure that all electoral districts reflect this.
Officials are finalizing the county’s redistribution process after state officials raised concerns about uneven growth in all of its districts.
“It was a difficult process,” said Jason Ward, the county administrator.
The county is made up of seven districts each represented by a member of the county council. Each district should have a population of 23,077 inhabitants. They can only deviate by 10 percent from that number.
This means that if the population of a district is above or below this benchmark of 23,077 of approximately 2,300 people, it should be treated according to state law.
As a result of the 2020 United States Census results, it was discovered that Dorchester districts deviated from this benchmark of 23,077, some up to 4,000 people.
Ward and other county staff came up with a plan to address the growing challenges in the districts. This had included moving some residential areas to other constituencies and under different county representatives.
Frank Rainwater, executive director of the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, praised the county for its current efforts in its redistribution process.
“They did a tremendous job,” Rainwater said. “There seems to be a well thought out approach here.”
District 4, represented by City Councilor Todd Friddle, was highlighted as needing the highest reduction as it exceeded its target population by more than 4,300 people. This district includes part of the Oakbrook area in Summerville, near Dorchester Road and the Wescott Plantation Golf Club.
In the past two years, housing estates and apartment complexes have sprung up in the area. The Oakbrook area has also been targeted for growth by the Towns of Summerville and Dorchester.
The county is proposing to redraw the district boundaries so that new developments in the northern part of the Friddle District are transferred to District 2, which is represented by City Councilor David Chinnis.
The neighborhoods south of Dorchester Road will also be moved to Councilor George Bailey’s District 3, along the proposed redrawn lines.
At a Dorchester County Council meeting on December 6, council members discussed the possibility of revisiting some of the redistribution decisions over the coming week.
“I think it’s essential to keep communities of similar interest together,” board chairman Bill Hearn said at a board meeting on Dec. 6.
Bailey, who has served on the council for over 50 years, noted that there are still areas around the community of Four Holes Swamp near Ridgeville that could potentially be moved to another district.
Chinnis explained that part of the challenge in the process is to ensure that areas are moved by census blocks. It’s not necessarily as easy as moving what they want.
Interested residents can visit the county’s website at dorchestercountysc.gov To find an interactive map of proposed neighborhood changes.
While most districts were above this target population of 23,077, Districts 1 and 2 are below. District 1 is represented by City Councilor Harriet Holman and was below its benchmark of approximately 3,200 people.
Parts of the Summerville and Jedburg areas north of US Highway 78 will be absorbed into the District of Holman’s and out of District 6 of Hearn’s. Part of the rural part of the Bailey District will also be transferred to Holman’s.
The redistribution plan is expected to receive final approval at the county council meeting on December 13.
To reach Jerrel floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @ jfloyd134.