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Clermont seeks green light for voting change

Councilmember raises briefly brought up

POSTED: August 4, 2014 1:12 a.m.

Clermont officials are waiting on state approval of proposed changes to the North Hall city’s charter that would divide the town into four voting wards.

Attorney David Syfan said he thinks it will be approved by the reapportionment office.

Once the OK is given, Syfan said he would present the changes to Hall County’s delegation at the state capitol.

The state legislature must approve the voting ward map before it can take effect.

The move to establish voting wards based on a relatively even split of the population comes not in response to a current problem, but rather a hypothetical one.

Mayor James Nix said officials are trying to avoid a scenario where all council members are elected from a single neighborhood or subdivision.

Call it a pre-emptive strike.

Currently, council members are elected by the entirety of the town, and that won’t change.

Instead, four of the five council members will have to reside in a specific voting ward, while one council member, and the mayor will be elected at-large and can live anywhere in Clermont.

Officials hope the residency requirement will ensure a fair and even playing field come future elections.

“I’ve seen it happen in other cities and you can argue whether it’s good or bad,” Syfan said. “(Elected officials) thought it was a good idea to have representation in all areas of the city.”

The proposed voting ward map was drawn based on 2010 U.S. Census figures and splits Clermont’s approximately 875 residents into four districts.

Other demographic breakdowns, such as race and ethnicity, or education and income levels, were not part of the formula.

“We don’t have enough minorities in the city to create a minority district,” Nix said.

While officials were updating the charter to reflect these changes, discussion emerged about adjusting compensation levels.

Nix said he makes a $150 a month while council members earn $125.

But the talk quickly fizzled out.

“They ended up deciding not to change the compensation,” Syfan said.


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