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Gainesville's proposed voting maps raise questions
Having different ballots could be costly, Hall elections chief says
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Hall County's acting elections superintendent can't say exactly how much elections will cost in Gainesville if the City Council and the Board of Education have differing districts, but her simple answer is "more."

Whether the city's school board will adopt a district map that is different from the Gainesville City Council's districts is still an unknown, however. An it might not be known for a while.

The school board is said to have preferred another drawing of city district boundaries over the one the Gainesville City Council will adopt in a final vote on Oct. 18.

But a high-ranking school official says the board has always intended to have a ward map that mirrored that of the City Council.

The City Council, on Tuesday, gave initial approval to a newly drawn district map that reapportions residents across the city's five wards according to new population data from the 2010 census.

The school board has "finished studying" how it will reapportion its wards according to new population data, but the board has not set a date to make a final decision or discussed the matter further, said Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.

There is no immediate rush on the school board's decision, either. The map the school board chooses will ultimately have to be approved by the General Assembly, which doesn't reconvene until mid-January.

"(Board members) will agree to what course of action to take," Dyer said. "It's just not that important of an item on their radar (right now)."

The idea of a more costly city election is a concern to state Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, who will ultimately lead the delegation that approves the school board's map.

"We're always concerned about costs," Rogers said.

"...Being a (city) voter, why do we want to incur (the cost of producing) triple the ballots? Why do we have to go through all that? Why can't we work together and make it more simple?"

Charlotte Sosebee, Hall County's acting elections supervisor, said the differing maps could force the elections office to pay for as many as 10 to 15 different ballot options.

Sosebee couldn't say for sure Wednesday how many ballots would have to be ordered in future Gainesville elections with differing districts for the two entities, because she had not studied how the two maps would divide voters at city precincts.

Since the General Assembly will have to approve the school board's district maps, Rogers said he plans to discuss the issue with the board of education and the council in a meeting of the local delegation in December.

Rogers said he has not yet looked at either map in detail. He said neither the school board nor the City Council have asked for his input.

"You hope they can work it out amongst themselves," Rogers said. "...If we can fix it, we'll have to meet about it and talk about it and see if we can remedy (the situation). If not, I guess the taxpayers of the city will have to incur the cost - whatever that cost is, I do not know."

No member of the city's board of education could be reached for comment Wednesday.

But Dyer said Ward 5 board member Delores Diaz wanted to increase the minority population in her district.

"She wanted to be sure that the people that lived in her ward had representation — that's what she stated," Dyer said.

In that vein, the school board contracted Linda Meggers,a former employee of the state's redistricting office, to draft another map for board members to consider.

"The school board just wanted to look at some different options," said Dyer. " But the school board understands and has agreed ... that either of the maps would work."

"The goal still is to have one map," Dyer said. "...From the very first the goal was to have one map."