Getting their first peek at what the council districts might look like for the next 10 years, Volusia County Council members formed a quick consensus on Tuesday for three options that would result in the least amount of change.
Every decade, the county must re-draw the boundaries of the five council districts following the national Census to reflect the change in Volusia’s population. Five of the seven council members are elected from geographical districts, with the other two members elected countywide.
The last time the council’s district boundaries were redrawn in 2011, the county’s population count was 494,593. At that time, the council districts ranged in population from approximately 98,000-100,000.
Data released this year from the 2020 Census shows that Volusia’s population has increased by nearly 60,000 – to 553,543. Two of the primary objectives of redistricting is to ensure that the districts are compact and contiguous and as nearly equal in population as possible. Whatever district map that the County Council adopts will take effect for the 2022 elections.
Based on the new Census figures, the population in District 1 in northwest Volusia and District 5 in southwest Volusia grew the most in the past decade. To equitably distribute the population based on the new Census, the county’s goal is for each council district to have between 109,602 and 111,816 people. And that will require shifting the current boundaries.
But redistricting is more than just a numbers equation.
In January, the council adopted a series of additional criteria to guide the process. Those goals include preserving municipal boundaries when possible, keeping large concentrations of minority populations intact and to avoid splitting communities that have geographically connected populations and share common social and economic interests. Another criterion is to ensure that no two sitting council members end up in the same district.
To initiate the dialogue, the county’s Geographic Information Services team utilized the block-by-block Census data and the criteria established by the council to generate a series of district maps for consideration. On Tuesday, six different map options were unveiled – dubbed plans A, B, C, D, E and F.
Some of Volusia’s cities would be split into two council districts regardless of which map is chosen. But three of the maps contain significant changes in the shape of some of the districts. Those maps were less preferred for the time being by council members, who instead stated their preference for the three maps with minimal changes – A, B and F. Council members were in agreement that fewer changes would result in less confusion for voters.
“We want to keep it as simple as possible,” said council member Ben Johnson.
Two of the districts would remain unchanged in the council’s top preference, Map F. The major changes in that map is that Lake Helen would move to District 3 and parts of the southern section of Port Orange would move into District 2. The maps will be discussed at a series of public meetings.
The council and the Volusia County School Board, which also is required to re-draw its districts, have scheduled a joint meeting for Monday, Oct. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the county’s Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center in DeLand to discuss the maps. A second joint meeting, if needed, has been scheduled for Oct. 28. An earlier meeting between the two boards that had been scheduled for Oct. 11 has been canceled.
Although not required, the County Council and School Board could adopt the same district map. County Chair Jeff Brower expressed hope that will happen.
“I am very hopeful that the School Board will join us and have the same districts,” said Brower. “I think it would be much easier for the public to understand where they’re voting and who they’re voting for.”
The county also is seeking community input into the selection of its new district map. The redistricting meetings will include public comment periods. Additionally, comments can be submitted online at www.volusia.org/census or www.vcsedu.org/school-board.
The maps could be revised along the way based on the input received.
Once agreement is reached on a new map, county staff will undertake the laborious task in November of writing the legal description for the district boundaries. The County Council is tentatively scheduled to select the new map at its Nov. 2 meeting and make it official with a final vote on an ordinance at its Dec. 14 meeting. Adoption of the ordinance will require a minimum two-thirds vote of the council.
– Volusia County Activity Project Manager Gary Davidson