Column: Keep voter equity in mind

School District 27 trustees are taking a look at their electoral boundaries.

School District 27 trustees are taking a look at their electoral boundaries. Ivan Bonnell was Mayor the last time this issue came up. He was concerned that, given Williams Lake’s large population and tax base, the city was getting short shrift when it came to voting power on the School Board. Some trustees pretty well told him to mind his own business.

The inequity of trustee distribution was an issue when I was a trustee back in the 70s. Edna Telford was among those who raised the issue later but trustees from the smaller populated zones liked it the way it was. The current board, however, plans to Do Something.

Some history — when the Cariboo Regional District was formed in 1969, the school board adopted the CRD boundaries without taking into account that CRD directors have a weighted vote according to their area’s population. For instance the three Williams Lake fringe area directors (D, E, F), 11,681 population, have two votes each. The city (population 11,150) has five votes, giving the four CRD representatives a total of 11 votes. The three trustees who represent the same areas have one vote each. They serve a population of 22,831. The remaining four trustees represent a population of 17,045.  I’ve used CRD numbers which may not exactly align with school district figures but you can get the idea.

The district used voter count, not population, in its calculations. Williams Lake has 27 per cent of the schools, 52 per cent of the enrolment, 28 per cent of the voters. Zone 4 (Area F) has 15 per cent of the schools, seven per cent of the enrolment and 13 per cent of the voters. Zone 5 (Areas D and E) has 12 per cent of the schools, nine per cent of the enrolment and 27 per cent of the voters. Zone 2 (Area G) has eight per cent of the schools, five per cent enrolment and 19 per cent voters. Zone 7 (Areas J and K) 15 per cent of the schools, three per cent of the enrolment, three per cent of the voters. The tax base wasn’t considered. The provincial and federal governments and the CRD must ensure their electoral boundaries match the population.

When considering its boundary changes, trustees might keep voter equity in mind.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.

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