published Friday, July 1st, 2011

Hamilton County district remap unveiled

  • photo
    Hamilton County Commissioner Chester Bankston from District 9

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New lines drawn for Hamilton County Commission districts will show the county’s population moving to the east.

Reconfigured boundaries for five of the county’s nine commission districts were unveiled Thursday by a committee working on the project. The three eastern districts — 7, 8 and 9 — had to give up population to come close to the ideal size of 37,380.

District 9 Commissioner Chester Bankston lost 7,200 residents, or about 19 percent, to offset rapid population growth over the decade.

“I didn’t want to give it up, but I don’t have a choice,” he said. “The numbers have got to work.”

Districts 4 and 5 were redrawn to preserve their status as majority black districts.

“This is the best redistricting we’ve experienced,” said local NAACP Vice President Joe Rowe, who participated in drawing the district lines.

Redistricting is done after every decennial census to reflect population shifts and ensure proper political representation. The ideal size for a Hamilton County Commission district is the county’s 2010 census population — 336,463 — divided by nine. Guidelines call for district populations to be within 10 percent of the ideal.

With the plan, districts 9 and 7 are 9.8 percent over 37,380, and District 8 is 9.4 percent over, said Greg Butler, county geographic information system manager.

District 3 was unchanged, and Districts 1, 2 and 6 weren’t discussed because their commissioners weren’t present.

The five commissioners whose district lines were unveiled all said they could live with the changes. Rowe said he hopes the others can, as well.

“If one of the nine has a problem, it starts a domino effect because changing the lines in one district affects the lines in another,” he said.

Hamilton County officials said they hope the County Commission will vote on the plan and forward it to the Hamilton County Election Commission for approval within the next 60 days. The lines also will need state approval. The deadline for the district lines to be set and approved is Jan. 1, 2012.

Once district lines are approved, voting precincts will have to be adjusted for the changes.

All of the voting precincts will have to be re-established because there were so many changes made to the districts, officials said.

Rowe said the last redistricting, in 2001, was knotty, with five proposals competing for votes.

He said some commissioners were opposed when he and others wanted to ensure a 55 percent black majority in Districts 4 and 5.

“The last one [2001 redistricting] was a disaster compared to this one, but this leadership was committed to obeying the law,” Rowe said.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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