After the 2010 Census, municipalities around the country had to redraw voting district lines. The city of Savannah was not obligated to do that for the 2011 citywide elections, but we do have new aldermanic districts for the 2015 vote.
That also means that we are halfway to the next Census, but more on that in a minute.
It’s not especially easy to find the new aldermanic map. This page on the city of Savannah website gives detailed, clear instructions for generating a district map or checking the districts of specific properties by using the Savannah Area Geographic Information System (SAGIS).
Since that page with instructions includes screenshots from SAGIS, I’ll post a couple of screenshots here. The map gets a lot bigger if you click on it, and in theory most property owners should be able to see what district they’re in:
If you’re having trouble seeing some of the changes, especially to the borders of districts 1, 2, 3, and 5, let’s zoom in a little closer:
Essentially, the district lines have had to shift westward to follow population growth on the city’s westside, which was in part due to annexations years ago. For those of us who live south of Forsyth Park, the changes are major. I used to live in District 1 (now represented by Van Johnson), which included portions of the Historic District and extended into West Savannah. Some of my neighbors just a few blocks away were in District 2 (Mary Osborne), and some residents of the Metropolitan neighborhood, which shares many characteristics with my Thomas Square neighborhood, were in District 5 (Estella Shabazz). Under the new lines, there’s a sensible rectangle that puts all of us into District 2.
District 2 incumbent Mary Osborne certainly seems vulnerable, and she’s being challenged by at least three apparently credible candidates: Detric Leggett, Barry Gale, and Bill Durrence. If 2015 is anything like the 2011 election, fewer than 3,000 people will vote in District 2 even though over 22,000 live here. The odds seem very high that none of the four candidates will get 50 percent of the vote in the general election, which would send things to a runoff with even lower turnout.
Back in 2013, there was some interesting debate among sitting council members about the proposed new district lines, which have to meet federal guidelines regarding nonwhite majorities in a majority of districts to reflect the city’s nonwhite majority. And that’s where things get kind of interesting, especially since we’re already five years out from the last Census.
As of 2010, the newly drawn District 2 had a white population of about 38 percent and a nonwhite population of about 62 percent. We’re seeing rapid shifts in the racial demographics in parts of District 2, however, and there is little doubt that the white population would be over 40 percent now. District 6 (Tony Thomas) was about 52 percent white in 2010, but it’s very likely that that number has fallen in the five years since the Census.
I’ll close with a reminder that the Mayor and two Alderman-At-Large seats are elected citywide. Mayor Edna Jackson is running for reelection and being challenged by Murray Silver and maybe others. I’m assuming that Carol Bell will seek reelection for one of the at-large posts, but Tom Bordeaux has already said that he will not run again for the other at-large post. I’ll have more to say about those races in future posts.