Panama City Beach is experiencing a peak in population and diversity
PANAMA CITY — As his office needs more time to analyze the data for potential redistricting purposes, Bay County Elections Supervisor Mark Andersen said recently released numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census show population surges at both ends of the county.
“When you look at the county’s growth from 10 years ago, the beach and northern parts of the county are the fastest growing areas,” Andersen said Tuesday.
He said the area with the fastest growth is County Commission District 5, which includes Panama City Beach.
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The second largest population spike in the past decade has occurred in Commission District 4, which covers a large swath of North Bay County and is the largest district in size.
Redistricting ensures balanced representation for all voters in the county.
“We use the general vote, but we still need limits for the county commission and the school board,” Andersen said. “Cities will have to examine their boundaries and make a decision” on a possible redistricting based on census data.
According to the census, Bay County’s population last year was 175,216, marking a 3.8 percent increase from its 2010 total of 168,852. And overall, the county now has a much more diverse population than a decade ago.
During this period, people who identify with two or more races accounted for the largest population increase by race in the county, at nearly 193%. This category had 5,235 residents in 2010 and 15,328 last year.
Over the past decade, the county’s Hispanic or Latino resident population has jumped nearly 71%, from 8,107 residents to 13,846 residents.
Its population of white residents decreased by 5.4%, from 138,731 to 131,304 residents, and its population of black residents decreased by 1.8%, from 18,180 to 17,856 residents.
In a separate case, Andersen said the commission plans in September to discuss the need for a redesign of the redistricting/voting area due to the availability of the site after Hurricane Michael in October 2018.
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Before Michael struck, Bay County had 44 precincts and polling places, Andersen wrote in an Aug. 11 letter to commissioners.
“After Hurricane Michael, we are still struggling to get close to so many different precincts and polling places that meet” state law requirements, he said.
Andersen’s letter included a list of current constituencies and why some new or merged constituencies are needed. For example, he reported that six buildings that had been used as polling stations before the hurricane have since been demolished. These include the Bayou George Jaycee’s Clubhouse in compound 4, the Southport Community Building in compound 6, and the Lynn Haven City Hall Annex in compound 18.
Three other structures are deemed “unusable” and the current status of five others is listed as “uncertain”.
To meet state requirements, “the addition of more early voting sites and voting days in Bay County and increased use of voting by mail is necessary,” Andersen said in his letter. “I am submitting recommended changes to the boundaries of our constituencies to reflect the actual boundaries and voting locations of the constituencies available on Election Day. Board approval of my recommendations must be received before beginning any official changes. If approved, I must notify the Secretary of State and provide detailed changes within 10 days of completion.