Commission will discuss redistricting again
The Morgan County Commission will again discuss plans to redistrict the county magisterial districts on Thursday, May 31 at 1:30 p.m.
The redistricting discussion was postponed from their May 18 meeting. The May 31 meeting will replace the regularly scheduled June 1 meeting.
When the redistricting issue was originally discussed on Friday, May 4, Commission President Glen Stotler said they needed to look at the polls, census maps and block maps before making any decision.
The redistricting issue arose because Commissioner Tommy Swaim moved out of Magisterial District 3 and into Magisterial District 2 when he built a new home a few miles south of his previous residence. Swaim said his new home is 200 yards outside of District 3 from which he was elected.
Commissioners Swaim and Stotler want to address the redistricting issue so there is no confusion over who can run and who can't run for office in the next county election. Commissioner Glen Stotler represents District 2 and is up for reelection next year.
One redistricting option would move 50 households from Magisterial District 2 into Magisterial District 3. The other would move 102 homes from District 2 into District 3.
Commissioners Stotler and Swaim were considering the option that would affect the smallest number of households.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson had been unaware of the redistricting plans until their April 20 commission meeting.
Legal to serve
Swaim admitted he was wrong not to check on his district before his move, but maintained he is legal to serve. Swaim has an opinion from Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin stating that he can serve out his term despite his move into another district. Swaim has no plans to run for County Commissioner again. He has three years and eight months left in his term.
McLaughlin, the county's lawyer, made her ruling after consulting with the Secretary of State's and the Attorney General's offices.
McLaughlin's opinion is based on a June 1997 State Supreme Court decision in the Burkhart vs. Sine case from Berkeley County. The decision maintained that a commissioner is elected from the magisterial district where he or she resides when voted into office.
"The elected commissioner carries the magisterial district from which he or she is elected with him or her throughout the entire six-year term of office," according to the Supreme Court decision.
At the May 4 meeting, Town Clerk Margie Allgyer said Swaim had been involved in the last redistricting change and should have known where the district lines were.
John Webster felt that Swaim should resign from office instead of the district lines being changed. Webster also thought there should be a state ruling on the issue.
At the May 4 meeting, Gary Lee Nelson requested a special election. Nelson has complained to the Secretary of State and the Governor that Magisterial District 2 has two commissioners representing it and that Magisterial District 3 had no commissioner.
Nelson contended that another commissioner should be elected to represent District 3. He also questioned the legality of Swaim's votes since his move into District 2 in 2005.
According to State Code, if a county commissioner resigns from office, the remaining commissioners pick his successor who serves until the next regular election. A special election would not be held.
Secretary of State's Office
The Secretary of State's Office gives advice in redistricting matters, but makes no rulings unless the situation pertains to an election process, said a staff member. Residency issues are determined by a court, not by the Secretary of State, they said.
As things stand now, Commissioner Tommy Swaim represents Magisterial District 3, though he no longer lives there.
Public notice & hearing
If the county commissioners approve and proceed with the redistricting plans, they must publish the proposed redistricted magisterial maps and place legal notices in the newspaper. A public hearing on the redistricting plans would also be held.