Easley considers options for ward reorganization

EASLEY — Recent 2010 Census data shows an increase in the population of Pickens County by nearly 10,000, from 110,757 in 2000 to 119,224 current residents.
In Easley, the population has grown from 17,754 in 2000 to 19,993 today. This 12.61 percent growth in population has given Easley city officials cause to consider redistricting voting wards.
On Monday night, city officials held a public hearing/workshop to discuss the process of redistricting the wards. A major concern for Mayor Larry Bagwell and city councilmen Chris Mann and Thomas Wright Sr. is that their seats are up for election this November.
Redistricting the wards means shifting constituents so that there are as close to an equal number of voters per ward. The target number of voters per ward is 3332. Wards 2 and 3 have approximately 3,000 voters, however Wards 4 and 6 fall below the target in the 2,000 range, Ward 5 has roughly 1,300 and Ward 1 has 7,500.
In addition to evenly distributing the number of voting-age individuals among wards, the 1965 Voting Rights Act requires governmental entities to ensure that minority voting populations are protected during the redistricting process.
“I’m of the opinion that we have no choice but to proceed with getting a plan in place” for reorganizing wards, said Mann. “I might be shooting myself in the foot (come election time), but it is the right thing to do.”
One option for the city of Easley would be to postpone the fall election until the redistricting process is complete.
Bagwell supported going forward with the redistricting process, but was not inclined to put off the election.
“When I was coaching, we would wait until the last minute before we cancelled a game for bad weather,” he said. “We should start on the process.”
Council members all agree that they would like more information before moving forward. Another public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Monday, June 6, at 5:30 p.m.