City Council to vote on ward reapportionment Oct. 17

Following the census, the city must reapportion wards to balance the population.
Casey Purcella / Graphic Designer

The Columbia ward reapportionment issue will continue until Oct. 17, when City Council plans to make the final vote on which proposal will be chosen.

The forthcoming changes were brought to the city’s attention in light of the census taken every 10 years of the population apportionment throughout the six wards. This past year, the census found an overflow of people in the second ward and a shortage of people in the third ward.

“The city charter says the wards after this census must be reapportioned so that they all have the same population,” Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley said.

The city charter requires that each ward contain approximately 18,083 people. Although the reapportionment committee’s primary goal is to fulfill this requirement, shifting the population inevitably brings about other changes.

“We had the committee make recommendations and hold public hearings about reapportionments and different possibilities,” Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.

Of the five possible reapportionment trials presented, Hoppe said Trial E, which involves extending the first ward further west, is the clear choice. Both the commission and the public favor it, and it is the simplest, most direct solution, she said.

“You take people from the second ward and put them in the first ward, which has the least disturbance to the rest of the wards,” Hoppe said.

Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said moving the population among wards means simultaneously ensuring that neighborhoods are not split up.

“You try to keep them intact and within one ward,” he said.

Another issue with reapportionment lies in participation within wards. Thornhill says that since the first ward tends to have the lowest participation in elections, the goal would be to reapportion the wards to make it more active. But making the first ward more active requires pulling voters from other wards, he said.

“It’s a tricky position to try to keep the right number of people and the right number of active voters in wards,” Thornhill said.

Hoppe also said that two of the proposed trials suggest moving a progressive and active neighborhood association into the first ward, which would make third ward voting more conservative.

“The concern is that you take those very active people from the fourth and third ward,” Hoppe said.

Originally, five trials were proposed to the council. Trials D and E were the most popular among the reapportionment committee, he said, but both have portions that raise questions of contiguity near the southwest areas of the city.

“We have to figure out if we meet the legal requirements of contiguity and make sure we’re getting the right number of people in the right ward,” Thornhill said.

Trial D and E were to be brought forward and voted on at the next meeting, but city council discovered an underlying problem with them.

“At the last moment, the city council said one of them was not legal under the constraints of the bylaws,” Dudley said.

Thornhill said it is important to incorporate areas of similar wants and needs along with maintaining those areas with higher percentages of voters.

“It’d be nice to get all of the wards involved more consistently,” he said.

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