Committee works on new districts

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The newly formed redistricting committee is ready to present its revised version of the county's voting districts to the commissioners at their July meeting.

Less than two hours' work with Doug Bodary of the University of Tennessee's County Technical Assistance Service and a computer program called ArcGIS fixed all the boundaries that needed changing.

Bodary stated that he knew no one in the county, and had talked to no one, so he was completely without prejudice or preconceptions about where boundaries should go. He explained he had already done some work on the county, with the goal of having 3,402 people in each district (plus or minus 5 percent), and keeping each commissioner in his or her current district.

"Why do we need to do anything else?" asked newly elected committee chairman Mike Waggoner.

"What would happen to the school board members?" asked county attorney Bill Haywood.

"It doesn't take effect until the next election," Bodary pointed out.

Mike Keny, chairman of the school board, reminded committee members that school board members have staggered terms, with some up for re-election in 2012 and others not until 2014.

Comparing school board members' addresses with the new map of voting districts, it was quickly discovered that Randy Perryman and Harvey Jones Jr. now lived outside their former districts. Curt Denton's address also required some scrutiny, and a slight change was needed to make him safely inside District 8. Bigger changes were required in the north end of the county, but at last Perryman was back in District 1 and Jones in District 2.

"I think we're all good now," said Waggoner. There were some comments about the strange shape of some of the districts, and Waggoner said, "Tell them the guy from the state came in and did it."

"This is my first rodeo," admitted Bodary. He said he had helped Moore County with their redistricting and they had been finished in an hour. Bodary was also one of three CTAS people who went to work with Wilson County on their redistricting. He said Wilson County has 24 commissioners and 24 districts, and they simply could not agree on what to do. After five hours, he said, "We gave up."

Marshall County has had "dramatic shifts" in five districts, Keny summarized, but committee members agreed that no one had a much longer trip to their polling place.

The next step in redistricting is approval by the county commissioners at their meeting on July 25. Then the election office will get to work notifying voters if their districts have changed.