published Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Plan to reduce Hamilton County precincts may not happen

  • photo
    Charlotte Mullis-Morgan is elections administrator for Hamilton County
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Tennessee General Assembly may have thwarted the goal of the Hamilton County Elections Commission administrator to save $75,000 by reducing the number of precincts based on the city and county's new districts.

Election Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan won't know until she sees a final draft of the new state maps, which she expects to receive this week.

Meanwhile, an early draft of a precinct reduction plan would have cut or merged as many as 29 precincts throughout the county. But any previous attempts to draw precincts have been scrapped as the commission awaits new maps to replace the incorrect ones previously sent by the state.

Every 10 years state and local governments redraw district lines to account for population shifts measured by the U.S. census. The state recently completed its new lines. Hamilton County and Chattanooga finished theirs last year.

Mullis-Morgan said local officials carefully drew the lines to eliminate precincts with low numbers of registered voters, with the possibility of saving up to $75,000. But now she doesn't know if that will be possible.

"From what I understand about the maps, we might be adding more precincts," Mullis-Morgan said. "We wanted to scale it down where we don't have any double precincts."

The county has 127 precincts -- at least five with fewer than 10 registered voters, records show. But each precinct requires a worker and materials on election day.

"I sure do hope they can follow the pattern and cut some of the precincts down," County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said Friday.

Mullis-Morgan said the reason some of the small precincts are necessary is to avoid split districts for a single elected position.

"If there are any splits, we're going to have to make new precincts," she said.

Mullis-Morgan said the election commission, which will meet Wednesday, will not take up the matter this month.

Contact staff writer Ansley Haman at ahaman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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