The Bulloch County Board of Education is set to vote on a proposed map with lines redrawn between the members’ electoral districts, based on results of the 2020 Census, during the board’s regular meeting, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9.
Compared with the county commission’s two multi-member districts, the long-established plan for electing the local school board is simple, but requires more lines on the map. The Board of Education has eight members, elected by separate districts, each of which is supposed to have nearly the same population. There are no multi-member districts, and since the members choose a chair from among themselves each year, there is no countywide elected leader.
But when Bulloch County’s measured population grew 15.5% in a decade, from 70,217 residents in the 2010 census to 81,099 residents in 2020, the growth was not uniform across the county. So, to preserve the “one-person, one-vote” principle, or as the board’s proposed resolution puts it, to bring the school district “into compliance with the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Georgia,” adjustments had to be made.
School district officials drafted the revised map with assistance from the State Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office. The main goal was to bring each of the eight districts within a generally accepted range of variation around an ideal district population of 10,137.
With the proposed revisions of their boundaries, the districts will range from 10,037 residents in District 4 to 10,228 residents in District 8. The proposed map shows that, as was already the case, Districts 3, 5, 6 and 8, centered in Statesboro, are geographically much smaller – because more densely populated – than outlying Districts 1, 2, 4 and 7, which extend to the corners of the county.
Another concern in redistricting is maintaining minority voting strength in traditional minority districts.
A demographic breakdown provided to the board shows that, in the proposed new map, racial and ethnic minorities constitute the majority of the overall population of two districts: District 3 where self-reported non-Hispanic white residents were 49.64% of the population in 2020, and District 8 where non-Hispanic whites were only 39.07% of the population.
So, black, Hispanic and other minority residents together make up about 50.36% of the District 3 population and 60.93% of the District 8 population.
Self-reported “Black or African American” residents alone make up a majority only in District 8, where they are 52.7% of the population. District 8 is currently represented by Maurice Hill, who is African American. But District 5, which has a 52.88%, white population, is currently represented by Glennera Martin, who is African American, while slightly majority-minority District 3 is currently represented by Stuart Tedders, who is white.
The Board of Education cannot, on its own, enact the revised district lines. The proposed resolution instead calls on Sen. Billy Hickman and Reps. Jan Tankersley, Butch Parrish and Jon Burns, who together represent Bulloch County in the Georgia General Assembly, to have the new map adopted as local legislation.
When it convenes in January, the General Assembly is expected to adopt local government boards’ redistricting plans from around the state.