Isle of Wight renumbers voting districts

Published 3:46 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors voted on March 3 to adopt a series of changes to the county’s voting districts, including renumbering them.

The board had voted in December to adopt new district boundaries based on 2020 census data and replace the old districts’ names with numbers. But the districts were already numbered in the state’s computer system, and not in the order the county had picked.

Under the state’s system, the Smithfield Center, which serves as the polling site for the one of two precincts within the former Smithfield District, is listed as “101.” Smithfield Assembly of God, the polling site for Smithfield’s second precinct, is “102.”

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The “1” in each numerical designation refers to Smithfield as District 1. Per the board’s latest changes, the county’s maps now align with that system, listing Smithfield as “D1,” the former Newport District as “D2,” Hardy as “D3,” Windsor as “D4” and Carrsville as “D5.”

The adopted changes also entail moving a few hundred residents to new districts to avoid “split precincts.”

According to Caleb Kitchen, vice chairman of the county’s electoral board, all voters assigned to a specific precinct must use the same ballot. Under the district boundaries adopted in December, eight precincts would have been split between the state Supreme Court’s newly created 83rd and 84th House of Delegates districts – necessitating separate ballots for each legislative seat be available at the affected precincts come the next election cycle.

Under the boundary adjustments the Board of Supervisors adopted March 3, only two precincts are split between the 83rd and 84th districts. These two – Cypress Creek and Nike Park – will operate as “A/B precincts” come the next House of Delegates election, where each polling site will have two separate voting stations, each with its own check-in computers, reporting forms and ballot-counting machines.”

The biggest change to the district boundary lines, Kitchen said, moves Eagle Harbor Apartments residents out of the Nike Park Precinct and into the Bartlett Precinct. This was done to even out the two precincts’ populations, as there’s a 5,000-voter limit per precinct. Nike Park had been over 4,100 under the December map.

The adopted changes also move the polling site for the Beaver Dam Precinct from Beaver Dam Baptist Church to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4411.

Prior to voting on the changes, the board put the matter to a public hearing, which drew only one speaker – Herb De Groft of the former Hardy District.

De Groft took issue with the irregular shape of the former Hardy District and urged the board to consider going from five to seven districts to achieve greater compactness.

Per federal and state constitutional requirements, voting districts must be more or less equal in population, be contiguous, compact and not discriminate based on race. Under the adopted changes, there’s a deviation of 7.92% between the most and least populated districts. Districts are to ideally deviate no more than 5%, but deviations of up to 10% may withstand challenges.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, there must also be at least one majority-minority district, as determined by the ratio of white voters to people of color and whether majority voters consistently vote to defeat minority candidates. Under the revised map, the former Hardy District’s voting-age minority population increases from 50.3% to 50.7%.

According to Kitchen, going to six or seven districts without adding a second majority-minority district could dilute the voting power of the county’s minority population.

“Because we made (a majority-minority district) possible in five, it looks really bad if we were to go to six,” Kitchen said.

With the districts and precincts now finalized, the county’s registrar’s office will begin mailing updated registration cards informing voters of their new district and precinct.