As the S.C. General Assembly redraws legislative district lines, more western York County communities will have a state senator in Columbia who doesn’t call York County home.
Using 2010 U.S. Census data, S.C. House and Senate leaders have been redrawing their districts and U.S. House district lines. York County, the second fastest growing county in the state, has grown 37 percent to 226,073 residents since the 2000 Census.
A purpose of redistricting is to ensure the districts have a similar number of residents. Other goals include respecting communities of interest and maintaining minority percentages in each district. Significant growth means several districts must shed residents to even out populations.
For eastern York County, growth has meant a new state House district largely made up of Fort Mill Township.
But in York County’s most prominent state Senate district – 15 – legislators moved about 22,000 residents into other districts, said the district’s senator, Wes Hayes, a Rock Hill Republican.
As a result, the district will shrink and shift east to cover a smaller, more compact geographical area, and a non-resident senator will gain more ground in York County.
District 15 currently covers much of the county. At its northernmost reaches, the district includes parts of Lake Wylie and Tega Cay. It spans south to the Chester County line and east past Interstate 77. It pushes toward Sharon in the west and includes McConnells, York, Filbert, Newport, and much of Rock Hill.
While the district’s northern border won’t change much, York, McConnells and rural areas in mid- and southern York County will join District 17, a rural senate district spanning Chester and Fairfield counties.
Represented by Sen. Creighton Coleman, a Winnsboro Democrat, the district already includes a narrow swath of York County from the Chester County line to the southern part of Rock Hill.
York County has two other non-resident senators: Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, of District 14 and Chauncey “Greg” Gregory, R-Lancaster, of District 16. Both will still have a York County presence in the new plan.
But there’s a tradeoff for having non-resident leaders in Columbia – the new voices mean more “clout” for York County, members of the county’s legislative delegation say.
“Most people would prefer to have a resident senator, or a resident House member, or someone who lives in that particular county,” said Hayes who has served in the state Senate since 1991. “That’s human nature.”
But having a non-resident representative is “not necessarily always a bad thing,” he said, adding that more legislators with constituents in York County mean more influence in Columbia.
Hayes said the county’s legislative delegation works together to serve the county, regardless of district lines.
“When people call me for help, I don’t check the lines to see if they’re in my district,” he said. “I have a countywide responsibility anyway.”
State Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, said he was at first concerned about the shifting lines.
“The strangest thing for me is living as close as I do to York, and the downtown part got cut out” of House District 47, which Pope represents.
But after talking with other county leaders, they decided it wasn’t a problem. It wouldn’t determine whom he helps, he said.
While there’s “potential” for non-resident leaders to overlook some of the county’s interest, any “diligent representative” could overcome that problem, Pope said.
Some York leaders aren’t worried about the changes for the city, which includes House districts that dissect the city.
The new district lines won’t change much about how constituents interact with their state leaders, said York Mayor Eddie Lee and Paul Boger, executive director of the Greater York Chamber of Commerce.
“We focus on those representatives that cover our county,” Boger said. “Whether one has a little bit more of the city of York, I don’t think it makes that much of a difference.”
“As a voter and as an elected official, I work with them all. I ask them all for things,” said Lee, citing frequent chats with state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, as an example.
Courtesy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal