Manatee commission and school board plan to adopt same redistrictng plan

MANATEE — For the first time, the Manatee County Commission and the county school board will share the same election districts, and Tuesday they agreed on a joint redistricting plan, too.

The fly in the ointment?

Officials realized during a workshop meeting that while the two governmental bodies both have five single-member districts, the identifying numbers are different.

So voters in the school board’s District 1, for example, would be in the county commission’s District 2.

“It would make sense to have the districts line up,” said Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, adding that it would be less confusing for the public.

John Bowen, the school board attorney, said nobody knew who assigned the numbers originally or who has the authority to change them.

And because school board Districts 2 and 4 are up for election next year, while Districts 1, 3 and 5 are up for election in 2014, it might affect the races if the numbers were changed all at once, Bowen told commissioners meeting at the County Administrative Center.

School Board Chairman Bob Gause asked attorneys for both boards to work together “and see if we can make the districts the same,” adding that it may take a couple of years.

Each of the five school board members live in the district they represent, but all are elected countywide. Five of the seven county commissioners live in and are elected by the district they represent, while two may live anywhere and are elected countywide.

The two boards agreed on the latest version of a redistricting plan, Plan D. The commission expects a final vote Nov. 21, while the school board planned to take its final vote in December, officials said.

Dave Miner, a civic activist, praised officials for deciding to adopt districts with identical boundaries, saying he had sought such a change for a decade.

Under Plan D, Commissioner John Chappie’s District 3 would be the largest with a population of 66,904. Chappie’s district covers west Bradenton and island communities.

The smallest would be District 2, with a population of 62,457, represented by Commissioner Michael Gallen. Gallen’s district covers Palmetto and much of east Bradenton.

The difference between them would total 4,447, said Karen Windon, a deputy county administrator who lead the county’s redistricting team.

The commission last month tentatively approved Plan D in a 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Robin DiSabatino dissenting.

The districts must be re-drawn to take into account population changes recorded during the 2010 census. The goal of redistricting is to ensure that approximately the same number of voters reside in each district.

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