A decision on a new redistricting plan means new freeholders for a few sections of Atlantic County.
Residents of Northfield, Linwood, Atlantic City’s 5th Ward, and the Farmington section of Egg Harbor Township will have different county representatives in 2013, after next year’s freeholder elections.
The electoral districts are redrawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census is conducted. The county’s Republican and Democratic parties each drew up a map of what the districts should be.
The party chairs selected two members from each party to join a redistricting commission and reach an agreement. When it could not be reached, state Supreme Court Justice Stewart Rabner appointed retired Appellate Division Judge Dennis J. Braithwaite to select the final map.
Braithwaite ruled in favor of the Republicans on Tuesday, stating that their map had districts that were more compact and equal in population and would most minimize voter disruption.
The Republican plan would affect about 12 percent of the county’s population, and the Democrats’ plan would have affected more than three times that amount, Braithwaite said.
The commission’s engineer, Remington Vernick & Walberg, will prepare a final map and a certification for all members to sign within the next 30 days, said Keith Davis, chairman of the county’s Republican Party and a member of the commission.
The Republican map made some changes in response to population shifts, most notably the recent growth in Egg Harbor Township. The township’s population grew by 41 percent from 2000 to 2010, and the large section of the township that does not border the shore towns will be almost its own county district, along with part of Hamilton Township, Davis said.
“This is a victory for Atlantic County,” Davis said. “We worked very hard on a fair map that was done with a combination of interests.”
Changes under the map include:
f-9n The 5th Ward of Atlantic City will move from District 1 to District 2, represented by Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica.
f-9n Northfield and Linwood will move from District 3 to District 2.
f-9n The Farmington section of Egg Harbor Township will move from District 2 to District 3, represented by Freeholder Frank Sutton.
Each district selects one freeholder. There are also four at-large freeholders on the nine-member board.
The freeholder board will be dominated by Republicans 8-to-1, with Charles Garrett as the lone Democrat, when the board members are sworn into office in January. The freeholders in districts 2 and 5, represented by James Bertino, will be up for re-election next November.
The Democrats’ proposal drew some criticism from members of its own party because it proposed splitting up Atlantic City and Pleasantville, which are both in District 1. Under their plan, Atlantic City would form a district with Brigantine and Pleasantville would be joined with sections of Egg Harbor Township.
Steven Moore, a Democratic Atlantic City councilman, favored the Republican plan because it would keep Atlantic City and Pleasantville together in District 1, which he said was vital to ensure a representative on the board would represent the county’s African-American community.
“I didn’t understand what Atlantic City and Brigantine had in common besides being a shore town,” he said. “If they split (Atlantic City and Pleasantville) there may be one more Democratic freeholder, but it would not necessarily be an African-American freeholder.”
The Democrats also proposed placing the rural areas of Corbin City, Estell Manor and Weymouth Township into District 2 along with Margate, Longport, parts of Ventnor and Egg Harbor Township.
County Executive Dennis Levinson, a Republican, said the Democrats’ map made no sense.
“The idea is for the districts to have common interests,” he said. “Weymouth does not have anything in common with Ventnor. It’s interesting they would be in the same district.”
Galloway Democratic Municipal Chair Mike Suleiman said the Democrat map would make all the districts more competitive.
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