Greenville’s population is changing and that could impact this year’s City Council elections.
Once per decade, district lines are redrawn, block-by-block. Some districts gain residents, while others lose population. The redistricting is designed to ensure each district has about the same number of people so voters have an equal say.
Between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, Greenville’s white population grew by nearly 3,000 and the number of black residents decreased. The demographic shift made it difficult to keep two minority districts, all incumbents in the same district, and all four districts proportionate to each other.
It will be even more difficult after the 2020 Census if the 2015 American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau is any indication. While the American Community Survey is an estimate, it showed Greenville’s white population growing by about 3,000 in those five years and its black population remaining the same, further diluting the minority vote.
When lines were redrawn in time for the 2013 municipal elections, hundreds of Greenville residents found themselves in a new City Council district because of population shifts indicated in the 2000 and 2010 Censuses. So while the lines aren’t new, this could be the first election some voters notice.
Why? For the first time in recent memory, every one of the council seats up for grabs this go-around is contested, although only one is in a traditional African-American district and is currently held by a black council member.
The biggest changes to City Council redistricting centered around Earle Street, which is one of the city’s upper-income areas, and the Haynie-Sirrine neighborhoods.
All of Earle Street was placed in District 1 rather than being divided, as had been done previously. Using 2010 figures, less than 7 percent of the district’s voting age residents were black.
Haynie-Sirrine, home to one of the Greenville’s first black communities and one of its low-to moderate-income neighborhoods, was moved into District 3, one of the city’s minority-majority districts which includes Nicholtown. The district, now represented by Jil Littlejohn, an African-American Democrat, barely maintained its minority-majority based on the 2010 Census. Elections for District 3 are not taking place until 2019. However, with Laurens Road being redeveloped, the area is expected to see increased gentrification.
District 2, the second of the city’s two minority-majority districts, connects two parts of the city via the Reedy River. According to 2010 Census figures, 53.5 percent of District 2’s voting age population was black. But the district contains West Greenville, an area that is becoming more racially diverse.
Lillian Brock Flemming, an African-American Democrat, has represented District 2 since 1981. She is opposed by Matt Cotner, a white Republican, this election. But their names won’t appear on the ballot on June 13 for the primaries because neither faces intra-party opposition. The District 2 race will be decided during the general election on Nov. 7.
The remaining races are in predominately white districts with white candidates.
Unlike District 2, District 4 voters will go to the polls on June 13 to vote in party primaries. District 4 encompasses the southeastern part of the city, including part of Augusta Road, Parkins Mill, the TD Convention Center, the downtown airport, and the Clemson University–International Center for Automotive Research.
District 4 incumbent David Sudduth will face challenger Wil Brasington in the Republician primary for that seat. Sudduth has been on council since 2005 and is vice president and chief operating officer of the Greenville Health System’s health sciences center. Brasington is a former president of the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association and is executive director of the Clemson University Alumni Association.
Voters citywide will decide one of the at-large seats in November as well. Republican John DeWorken and Democrat Russell Stall will face off for the seat now held by Gaye Sprague. DeWorken is a Greenville businessman; Stall is retired former director of Greenville Forward.
Because that seat encompasses all of the city limits, the 2013 redistricting did not impact its boundaries. In the 2015 American Community Survey, which is not the official Census, 66.2 percent of the city’s 60,632 residents were white.