The question of when — instead of how — became the focus of a public hearing on redrawing Forsyth County district voting lines.
Several residents on Thursday asked county commissioners to delay their decision on the redistricting map to sometime this week.
Specifically, they wanted the commission to wait until after a town hall meeting on reapportionment Monday night.
Organized by the local Democrat, Republican and Tea parties, the session will also cover the county district lines.
The commission voted 3-2, with Brian Tam and Pete Amos opposed, to postpone until Tuesday a vote on sending a draft map of new district lines to the state legislative reapportion office.
The county must redraw its five districts based on the population findings of the 2010 U.S. Census, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.
"The Constitution requires that to the extent we can make them equal, the voting districts involving both board of education and board of commissioners must be equal," Jarrard said. "That has been the focus of the creation of this map."
The county’s geographical information services department formulated the proposed map, he said.
Once it has been approved by commissioners, it must go through a lengthy process, ultimately being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice before qualifying April for the next local elections, Jarrard said.
To get that process started, state lawmakers have indicated the county’s preliminary plan should be received by Aug. 15.
County commissioners and school board members listened as many residents asked them to hold off Thursday night.
"We would respectfully request that the board not adopt today for the simple reason that this has only been available to the public since Monday," said Ethan Underwood, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party.
Former Commissioner Jim Harrell noted the importance of district lines has grown since both commission and school board members are elected by district, rather than county-wide as was the case prior to 2010.
"To rush a vote through tonight would be a slap in the face to the good citizens of this county," Harrell said.
Forsyth has one commissioner and school board representative for each of its five districts.
The 2012 election cycle will feature contests for the Districts 2, 4 and 5 posts on the county commission and Districts 3, 4 and 5 on the school board.
The town hall meeting Monday night will offer an important and anticipated chance for the public to speak on redistricting, said Sharon Gunter, who chairs the local Democratic Party.
Commissioner Patrick Bell agreed with the residents.
"I want to hear the three-party meeting on Monday night," Bell said. "I have to commend three parties that typically are totally at odds have agreed to come together to try to offer us solutions and input."
Tam, chairman of the commission, noted its members had not disregarded the town hall meeting, which had been postponed from its initial Aug. 3 date.
When creating the Thursday agenda, he expected that session to have occurred.
Tom Cleveland, chairman of the school board, said waiting until this week would be fine, as long as the two elected bodies communicated on the changes.
"For the most part, y’all are real involved in that district that you come from, so we tend to listen a little bit more to the requirements that y’all put into the hopper for this map," Cleveland said.
"If we can come up with the changes required by [Aug. 9], I think we’re OK."
Bell mentioned that he had a few changes he may want to discuss for his District 4.
Commissioner Jim Boff said he found it odd that his District 5 is divided by Lake Lanier, though he wasn’t sure that posed a problem.
"If anybody can find anything negative or positive about that, I would like to know," Boff said.
Some speakers indicated a desire to keep their neighborhoods intact.
Brant Meadows said he hoped all of Forsyth would be put in the same state district when the map is redrawn.
"Likewise, I would like for my community to be represented by the same commissioner," said Meadows, referring to the Windermere subdivision and others that the proposed map would divide.