First Posted: 12/3/2011

he county Board of Commissioners on Monday night will approve a new set of district lines from which they will be elected, and until the introduction of a wild-card last week, there wasn’t a lot of mystery concerning what to expect.

The commissioners will act as politicians and approve district lines that ensure their own re-election, but also satisfy the U.S. Department of Justice, which will make sure that all races are fairy — not equally — represented. Currently, the board is composed of three American Indians, three whites and two blacks, and expect the districts to be crafted to maintain that balance — unless that wild-card is played.

The commissioners spent last week tweaking the lines for eight districts, making sure that the population deviation between the largest and smallest wasn’t more than 10 percent, which the Justice Department frowns upon. The commissioners also took a glance at districts proposed by a coalition of county residents that calls itself the Unified Robeson County Redistricting Committee. But those districts reportedly draw at least once commissioner out of his district, and we can assure you they received no more than a cursory review.

Now, for that wild-card.

Late last week we heard conversation that there had been maps proposed that would create a ninth district, which would be majority American Indian. At least two commissioners, when queried for a story on Page 1A today, dismissed that possibility as a long-shot, but someone must favor a ninth district because that scenario was introduced, and didn’t arise organically.

Apparently the county’s population growth as reflected in the 2010 census is sufficient by law to support the creation of a ninth district, otherwise the conversation is moot. We can understand the merits of an additional district — commissioners representing fewer people, which would give each constituent a louder voice.

But the addition of a fourth American Indian on the board is a big deal, one that is worthy of extended conversation, and shouldn’t be marched out to the public moments in advance of the adoption of the district lines.

We don’t have laser-like insight on what will happen on Monday night, but what looked to be a rather mundane exercise suddenly has a bit of suspense.