MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission on Tuesday approved a redistricting plan that would make District 2, covering much of downtown Bradenton and Palmetto, more compact.
Plan D was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Robin DiSabatino dissenting.
The plan would transfer some neighborhoods east of the Braden River that currently are in Commissioner Michael Gallen’s District 2, into District 5. The more-suburban District 5, now represented by Commissioner Donna Hayes, covers most of East Manatee south of the Manatee River.
DiSabatino said she would have preferred a plan that more vigorously squared off her District 4 along geographic lines. District 4 covers southern Manatee, including Oneco and Samoset, roughly from Lockwood Ridge Road to Bayshore Gardens.
Charles Smith, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Manatee-Sarasota chapter, said he thought Plan D “is better than most,” but urged commissioners to ensure that it complies with federal voting rights statutes.
“Our issue is the prospect of breaking up minority communities,” he told the commissioners, adding that when voters with the same interests are separated in different districts, it has the effect of disenfranchising them.
Community leader and former school board member Ruby Byrd said like groupings within districts are not just a racial matter, but carry a civic importance, too.
“It’s people meeting on the same agenda, being able to have an impact on your neighbors and what they need to do,” she said.
Dave “Watchdog” Miner, who has repeatedly asked the commission to appoint an independent commission to draw new districts free of political considerations, reiterated his request. But the commission chose again not to exercise that option.
The redistricting debate now goes to the Manatee County School Board, which has decided to abide by the same boundaries chosen by the county commission.
The school board has slated an open house for 5-7 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Manatee County School Support Center, 202 Manatee Ave. W.
The commission is expected to take a final vote on its redistricting plan Nov. 21.
The districts must be redrawn to take into account population changes recorded during the 2010 census.
Commissioners are charged with ensuring that approximately the same number of voters reside in each district. Under Plan D maps, all district populations would be within 4,500 people of each other, officials said.
To view redistricting maps, go to www.mymanatee.org/redistricting, or call (941) 748-4501.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.