WESTMINSTER -- The Carroll Charter Board discussed with the county Board of Elections last night the legal and technical issues involved in creating seven council districts instead of the five originally proposed.
Charter Board member Joseph Getty said the county can't be divided into seven districts of ideal size without breaking current voting precinct boundaries because of the disparity in precinct sizes.
At three recent public hearings on the charter draft, several residents advocated creating seven or more council districts to provide better representation for all regions of the county. The Charter Board had proposed five districts with ideal populations of 24,674.
In a May 5 letter to the Charter Board, the attorney for the Elections Board requested that creation of council districts follow precinct lines.
To meet election law requirements, the Charter Board is seeking to draw council districts that are within 5 percent of an ideal, or equal, population. The ideal population per district under the proposal for seven districts is 17,624.
The board's initial proposal for seven districts shows variances of more than 5 percent from the ideal population. It also splits the Westminster election district among three council districts.
"Our question is, to what extent is the Elections Board willing to refine the existing precinct boundaries?" asked Mr. Getty.
The Elections Board is prohibited from changing election district boundaries until Nov. 15, after the Nov. 3 general election, said Rosemary McCloskey, chief clerk for the Elections Board. The board will evaluate changing precinct lines after that date, said Leo Kuhn, Elections Board president.
"We're going out on a limb because, legally, districts are frozen," said Mr. Getty. "We don't have the right to make new districts. We can make recommendations to the Elections Board."
Wesley D. Blakeslee, attorney for the Elections Board, agreed that the county couldn't be divided into seven districts of ideal size without splitting up precincts.
The problem is that some precincts are much larger than others, said Ms. McCloskey. For example, one Hampstead precinct has 5,690 residents, while the two New Windsor precincts each have less than 2,000 residents.
The charter is the document that would become Carroll government's constitution if approved by voters. It outlines the structure, powers, duties and limitations of government, and would replace the current three-commissioner system with a council.