Mayor seeks to clarify comments on reapportionment

Published 7:07 pm Friday, August 25, 2017

While the Friday meeting of the Carter County Election Commission was slated to focus on the call for primary elections issued by the county’s political parties, the major subject of discussion turned out to be reapportionment after Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey asked to address the group.

Humphrey told members of the Election Commission that he wished to “clarify” comments he made during the August 21 meeting of the Carter County Commission when he proposed the county’s governing body being the reapportionment process.

On Monday, members of the County Commission voted down a resolution to down size the group from 24 to 16 members after County Attorney Josh Hardin advised them against it, offering his opinion that the county was not authorized to reduce its size outside of the reapportionment process.

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After the resolution failed, Humphrey stepped down as Chairman of the group to offer an alternative proposal for the county to being reapportionment proceedings which would allow them to downsize within the authority granted to them by state law.

During his presentation to the Commission, Humphrey criticized the most recent reapportionment, which was conducted in 2011 following the 2010 census. Humphrey described the reapportionment as “flawed” and urged the Commission to hold a new reapportionment to “correct the mistakes” made in the 2011 process. He also provided commissioners with handouts he said demonstrated that 1,346 residents out of the county’s overall population of more than 57,000 were “not properly” represented on the Commission.

He also noted the 2011 reapportionment process was completed in 60 days and said the reapportionment committee did not take enough time to go through the process properly.

As part of his remarks to the Commission, Humphrey mentioned Carter County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris and Greg Largent, an employee in the Assessor of Property’s Office, by name for their work in the 2011 reapportionment plan.

On Friday morning, Humphrey asked to address the Election Commission to clarify his comments, particularly as they related to Harris, her staff, and the Election Commission.

“When I came down from the chair to give them an alternative, I made some statements, and I mentioned Ms. Harris’ name and Mr. Greg Largent’s name in that,” Humphrey told the Election Commission on Friday. “The point I was trying to make was that even with all the constraints and even with having to meet those classes, they had done their work and completed it within a 60 day period,” Humphrey said. “That was trying to prod this Commission along that if they wanted to make good on their campaign promises they could create that committee that night.”

Humphrey then told the group he wanted to clarify his statements.

“Yesterday, it was brought to my attention that some people had interpreted my statements as negatives against Ms. Harris, Mr. Largent, and the Election Commission,” Humphrey said. “I did say, point blank, it was a flawed plan. It fell short of what the Commission should have done then. The County Commission, not the Election Commission, okay.”

State law allows for “10 standard deviations” between districts for representation to be considered equal by the state.

In response to the allegation made by Humphrey during Monday’s County Commission meeting, Harris stated on Friday that the county is within the state standards for the districts.

“By the whole county, it’s an 8 percent ratio, which we’re allowed 10 percent ration,” Harris said. “But by district, we’re still under 5 percent, which is really good.”

During the County Commission meeting on Monday, the commissioners voted to postpone consideration of Humphrey’s reapportionment proposal until the group’s September meeting to allow the group more time to research the issue. Humphrey told the Election Commission on Friday he feels that move effectively eliminated the chance for the county to use reapportionment to reduce the size of the Commission.

“Realistically, that is impossible. There is no way you can go through this process and get it completed before the petitions are made available for the constituents who want to run for office in November of this year for the 2018 election,” Humphrey said.

Once the candidate paperwork is made available to residents on November 17, the number of commission seats to appear on the ballot would be set at three per district.

“The question will come up again next month,” Humphrey said regarding reapportionment. “At that point in time, based on the information I have, my advice would be to defer until after (the census.)”