Election Office: County’s district populations fall within state guidelines

Published 6:01 pm Monday, August 28, 2017

In the past week, the topic of reapportionment has been a matter of discussion at local government meetings as local officials question whether or not the county’s eight districts are equally represented.

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey introduced the idea of reapportionment — also known as redistricting — as an alternative to a resolution to downsize the County Commission which failed to garner enough votes to pass on August 21. During Friday’s meeting of the Carter County Election Commission, members of that group also discussed the reapportionment process and changes made during the redistricting of the county in 2011.

Under state law, each county is required to go through reapportionment at a minimum of every 10 years using the data from the most recent federal census.

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During the County Commission meeting on August 21, Humphrey proposed the Commission hold a reapportionment now rather than waiting for the 2020 census, citing what he believed was an imbalance in the representation of the citizens of Carter County. State law grants the county authority to reapportion at any time if the governing body feels it is necessary “to maintain substantially equal representation based on population.”

The Commission voted to postpone a decision on entering reapportionment until the group’s September meeting to allow them time to research the issue.

In 2011, Carter County went through reapportionment following the 2010 census. When the process began, based on the data collected during the census, the county was not within the guidelines for equal representation set by the state.

Under state law, the population of a single district in the county must be within 10 percentage points of the average population of all the county’s districts.

Information obtained from the Carter County Election Commission shows the population in Carter County denoted by the 2010 census, and subsequently used in the 2011 reapportionment, was 57,424. That population total includes all persons residing in the county and not just those registered to vote. With Carter County being divided into eight legislative districts as it pertains to the County Commission, the average population for each district should fall within 10 percent above or below the average of 7,178 according to state law.

After reapportionment was completed in 2011, the eight districts were brought to within a 5 percent deviation from the average, Carter County Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris said. The overall deviation from the least populated district to the highest populated district is 618, which she said falls in the 8 percent deviation range. The county-wide deviation and the district deviations all fall within the acceptable range allowed by state law, Harris said.

“It’s going to be virtually impossible to get it down to 1 percent,” Harris said.

In addition to meeting state standards regarding the population of each district, Harris said any plan to redraw district or precinct lines must also follow state election guidelines.