Commission creates committee to begin work researching population, redistricting process

Published 11:21 pm Monday, September 18, 2017

With an eye to the future, members of the Carter County Commission voted to establish a redistricting committee well ahead of the time they are required to begin work on the process.

State law requires each county to undergo reapportionment every 10 years using the data from the most recent federal census. The last redistricting took place in 2011 using data from the 2010 census. The next scheduled reapportionment process will take place in 2021 using population data collected in the 2020 census.

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During last month’s meeting of the Carter County Commission, members voted down a proposal to reduce the size of the county’s governing body upon advice of County Attorney Josh Hardin. Following the failure of that proposal, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey proposed the group form the committee and being the redistricting process ahead of schedule, citing districts which he said were not equally represented on the Commission. Commissioners voted during that meeting to delay debate on Humphrey’s proposal until this month’s meeting to allow them time to read the material which Humphrey passed out and to research the matter on their own.

On Monday evening the Commission took up the subject of forming a Redistricting Committee to begin researching population data collected in between census years to try to get a heads start on the process for 2021.

“You’ve got a year left,” Humphrey said to the Commission. “Go ahead and do that homework and have it ready to hand over to the next Commission in 2018.”

Humphrey initially told the Commissioners they could use population data collected in 2016 to begin redistricting, but was corrected on that matter by Matthew Hill from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Local Government. Hill said state law requires the county to use only population data collected during the federal census.

Some members of the Commission questioned why they should begin the research now using the 2010 data when they would have to do it again in 2021 with the 2020 data.

“Why are we rushing to do it just to have to do it all over,” Commissioner Willie Campbell asked.

Others touted the need to do complete research to be ready for the reapportionment process.

“When has more time to research something every been wrong,” Commissioner Randall Jenkins asked.

When asked to weigh in on the matter, County Attorney Josh Hardin said he saw no issue with the Commission forming such a committee to begin research at this time.

Jenkins made a motion to form the committee to begin researching the redistricting matter. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Ronnie Trivett and passed on a vote of 14-6.

The Commission then voted by a margin of 17-4 to name the Rules & Bylaws Committee as the committee in charge of redistricting research.