Commission to debate beginning the process to redraw district lines

Published 7:50 pm Friday, September 15, 2017

In a carryover of business from last month, members of the Carter County Commission will once again discuss reapportionment and consider creating a committee to begin the redistricting process when the group meets on Monday.

Last month, the county’s governing body considered a resolution to downsize the group from 24 members to 16. The resolution ultimately failed on a vote of 10-14 after County Attorney Josh Hardin said in his opinion the Commission did not have the authority to change the number of members outside of the reapportionment process.

After the resolution failed, Carter County Mayor addressed the group about opening the reapportionment process early in order to downsize the governing body. Under state law, each county must go through reapportionment at least every 10 years using the population data from the most recent federal census. The county last underwent reapportionment in 2011 using data from the 2010 census.

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Even if the county were to complete the process of redrawing district lines now, Hardin said the group would have to repeat the process in 2021 after completion of the 2020 census.

Humphrey told the Commission the 2011 reapportionment was completed in haste and made a “quick fix” of moving a few voters, but ultimately left several areas of the county without equal representation.

If the reapportionment process was started and completed before November 17 — the official start of the 2018 election process — the Commission could be downsized to 16 members, and when voters head to the polls in 2018 they would select only two representatives per district instead of three.

Members of the Commission voted 13-11 to defer discussion and debate on Humphrey’s proposal until this month’s meeting to allow the commissioners time to review the information provided by Humphrey and research the issue.

On August 27, Humphrey met with members of the Carter County Election Commission to clarify some comments he made regarding the previous reapportionment process when speaking with the full Commission earlier that month.

During that meeting, Administrator of Elections Tracy Harris addressed Humphrey’s remarks to the County Commission that certain areas of the county were not equally represented based on his calculations.

Harris stated the county is within the state standards for the districts. State law requires each district to be within 10 percentage points of the average district population.

“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.”

Humphrey told the Election Commission the decision by the County Commission to delay discussion for a month 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 told the Election Commission regarding reapportionment. “At this point in time, based on the information I have, my advice would be to defer until after (the census.)”

However, during a meeting of the Financial Management Committee on Sept. 6, Humphrey told that group he was going to recommend the full Commission proceed with creating a reapportionment committee to begin the redistricting process.

Members of the Carter County Commission will debate the creation of that committee when they meet on Monday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. in the courtroom located on the second floor of the Carter County Courthouse.