published Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Polk County remap ready for vote

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    Polk County Commissioner Isaac Bramblett reviews current redistricting plans. Photo by Paul Leach
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BENTON, Tenn. — The Polk County Redistricting Committee’s fifth plan, dubbed Plan 2B, promises minimal changes to Districts 1 and 2 and now awaits approval by the County Commission.

Plan 2B includes a reduced cost for voter notification and no need to add and pay for more commissioners, Commissioner Isaac Bramblett said.

“The new redistricting will only affect about 250 people,” said Redistricting Committee Chairman James Woody, who indicated that most of the changes occur along the borders of Districts 1 and 3 in West Polk.

The plan reduces the overall population variation between the county’s three districts from 21 percent to 16 percent, according to Bramblett. This doesn’t meet the state’s 10 percent standard, which aims to ensure proportional representation.

But the state comptroller’s office also said local officials may justify noncompliance with consistent and nondiscriminatory redistricting policies.

The core problem is that population has fallen in East Polk, which comprises the whole of the 3rd District, and grown in the 1st District, which includes Benton and the northwest portion of the county. The Cherokee National Forest, which separates the 3rd District from the rest of the county, presents further complications.

Commissioners have already rejected plans that attached portions of West Polk voters to the East Polk district because of the geographic dislocation, said Bramblett.

A plan to add a small fourth district inside West Polk also failed.

The committee briefly suggested replacing the county’s three districts with seven or 10, but committee members said such global changes would require significant investments in time and money, and they must finish redistricting by Dec. 31.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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