Re-mapping districts could be tricky

Published 6:45 pm Friday, July 29, 2011

Reapportionment of voters into new districts for federal, state and local elections—a process that happens every 10 years after new Census data is compiled—is complicated and may not be finished until 2012, local officials said.

Decatur County Attorney Brown Moseley provided county commissioners with an overview of the process at their meeting last Tuesday night. Even Moseley said there is no easy way to go about laying out the new districts’ boundaries.

Moseley said that citizens have historically indicated they do not like it when redistricting forces an elected incumbent out of a district. After all, the voters put that person into office and feel entitled to representation by that person until they vote otherwise, he said.

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But because of requirements for what constitutes a district—for example, they should be roughly equal in population but not necessarily in size—is a task that requires much study, Moseley said.

A “first-pass” map created by the Georgia Legislature’s reapportionment office using Moseley’s guidelines is a start. But because District 1 in southeastern Decatur County has to grow in size to make up for a population decline, some of the adjacent districts will have to change. That could create a problem for some elected officials, depending on where they live, Moseley said.

The “first-pass” map gives part of District 5—a small section along Georgia 97 south of Bainbridge to Country Club Road—over to District 1. That could create an issue because a county commissioner lives on one side of the river and a Board of Education member lives on the other side—meaning one of them would have to sit out the next election or move, according to Moseley.

For comparison purposes, Moseley requested an alternative map based around the idea of making historically black voting Districts 1 and 3 be comprised of at least 64 percent black people, in order to meet and exceed U.S. Department of Justice civil rights requirements. However, the alternative map would force County Commissioner Earl Perry to have to move to Fowlstown to keep his seat.

To help head off some of those issues, county officials agreed to work with the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission staff on district mapping issues.

Regardless of how the maps turn out, elections officials will notify all of the registered voters in Decatur County by sending out new voting cards that list each voter’s district and voting place. That means sending out about 16,000 postcards, but it’s a task the elections office is up to, County Chief of Elections Doris White said.