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Halifax County commissioners today appointed a committee to oversee the redrawing of their district lines due to the results of the 2020 census.

The committee will consist of  commissioners Rives Manning and Carolyn Johnson, who have participated in this process in the past, Doris Hawkins, tax coordinator, tax collector and geographic information system coordinator, Senior Management Analyst Christina Wells, and County Attorney Glynn Rollins, who will serve as chair of the panel.

Rollins at today’s board meeting presented information to the board which shows the new county population — 48,622 — and the population residing within the county’s three commissioner districts.

The population of district 1, which is served by Johnson, is 15,308. The population of district 2, which is served by John Smith, is 15,601. The population of district 3, which is served by Linda Brewer, is 17,713.

Rollins told the board the ideal population for the three districts is 16,207, a figure arrived at by dividing the 48,622 by three.

Because of some case law, Rollins said “race and ethnicity, although important, cannot be used as a dominant and controlling factor in redrawing district lines.”

The census results show that district 1 is short by 899 people while district 2 is short by 606 people. District 3 is over the ideal figure by 1,500 people.

“What’s going to happen is if any district has a variance of more or less than 5 percent from ideal ( districts 1 and 3) then we’re going to have to do redistricting,” Rollins said. “Once we get into that process our goal is to see that we get all three districts as close to 16,207 as we can.”

While there has been a state recommendation to have this done by November 17, that date doesn’t apply to the county because there are no district elections coming up until 2024, Rollins said.

The redistricting does have to be completed 150 days before the 2024 primary. “We’re not going to wait that long but we’ve got time to really do this in a deliberate manner, in a transparent manner which is what we’re going to do,” the attorney said. “Fortunately, we’re not going to have to do a whole lot of changing. We’ve got to lose 1,500 people out of district 3, we’ve got to gain roughly 900 people in district 1 and roughly 600 people in district 2. It is time to start that process.”

Asked by Commissioner Patrick Qualls whether this job could be performed internally or through an outside firm, Rollins said, “I think we’re absolutely capable of doing this internally as far as being able to handle the data and extend the census blocks in getting those new lines. We already know where the new lines are.

“We’ve done a legal description of the lines where they are now. It’s just a matter of looking at the census blocks that are around the edges and really the border between all three tracts that’s on the southern side of Roanoke Rapids. You’re not going to find room to play except in that area. It’s going to involve moving some of the population in that area either on the southeast side or southwest side.”

County Manager Tony Brown also said the process could be handled internally. “ … It’s just a matter of crunching them (the numbers) and figuring out what needs to go where.”

Manning recommended the new lines be put along permanent boundaries, “that you can step on and see or stick your foot in the creek — permanent boundaries that are separated — not just lines through the woods.”

Bryant said there would be transparency and openness with the process, along with a public hearing before the commissioners and a public hearing with the committee.