Beaufort News

Group continues push to consolidate black voting interests on Hilton Head

Hilton Head Island town officials say their hands are tied as a group of native islanders continued their push to better represent blacks' common voting interests,

The town's Intergovernmental Relations Committee met Wednesday to hear public input on plans to redraw ward boundaries to account for population growth from 2000 to 2010.

The committee again heard from Perry White, a member of the Baygall Property Owners Association, who says his community has been engulfed by the interests of neighboring Palmetto Hall and Port Royal plantations in Ward 6.

White and others say their community's interests and needs align more closely with other native island neighborhoods in Ward 1, represented by Bill Ferguson, the council's longest-serving member and lone minority.

Doing so, however, would further dilute black political representation on the island.

"This is the best we can come up with, given state and federal guidelines and our physical boundaries," said town manger Steve Riley. "Our No. 1 concern was maximizing the minority population in Ward 1 ... everything else falls out."

Adding Baygall would force the town to cut out other portions of Ward 1 to reach a population target of about 6,100 people per ward. That likely would lower the percentage of native islanders targeted in both plans, said Will Roberts of the S.C. Office of Research and Statistics.

Currently, Ward 1 exceeds that target by about 2,000 people and must already move some folks out into other wards.

Including Baygall in Ward 1 would also split Ward 6, which violates criteria that districts be contiguous.

Both plans presented Wednesday meet Justice Department and state parameters, Roberts said.

Both call for increasing the percentage of black voters in Ward 1. Plan 1 would increase that percentage from 22 to about 26 while Plan 2 would increase it to about 25 percent, even though the number of blacks in the ward declined in the past 10 years.

The committee voted to recommend Town Council adopt Plan 2, which would shift Indigo Run from Ward 3 represented by Lee Edwards into Kim Likins' Ward 4.

Likins would also take the area centered around Marshland Road in Ferguson's Ward 1 and cede the Burkes Beach area to Ferguson and an area around Folly Field to Ward 6 represented by Ken Heitzke.

Ward 1 also picks up the area around the Hilton Head Island Airport between Beach City and Dillon roads from Ward 6, and gives an area northeast of Gumtree Road to Ward 2 represented by Bill Harkins.

Edwards, Ferguson and Likins say they all prefer Plan 2.

"It's the most compact and most closely mirrors the existing ward boundaries," Edwards said.

Council has until spring to submit its plan for review to the Justice Department.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at

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