published Saturday, March 31st, 2012

New Hamilton County precinct map to save money

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

Hamilton County Election Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan hopes to notify the county’s voters of major precinct changes in the next two months.

Mullis-Morgan’s staff worked with Hamilton County’s Geographic Information Systems department to draw new precincts based on recently passed redistricting plans. The changes could save the county as much $35,000 to $50,000 per year, Mullis-Morgan said.

“Hopefully by the end of May we’ll have the letters and cards out,” Mullis-Morgan told election commissioners at a Monday meeting.

Local governments and the state must examine district boundaries every 10 years based on the U.S. Census to balance any changes in population shifts and minority concentration.

The range of changes for voting precincts might ultimately lead to a net loss of only two precincts, but 27 will be dropped or eliminated, Mullis-Morgan said. The new map also adds 25 precincts.

Determining where precincts should be located requires consideration of geographic distance from voters and the boundaries of state legislative and county commission districts. Sometimes there are multiple precincts at a single polling place.

State and local lines drawn in the last redistricting process forced the election commission to create precincts with fewer than 10 voters. In the March 6 presidential primary, no one voted in nine of the county’s 128 precincts.

This year, the election commission invested in software that could be used by the county’s GIS department to make sure each census block carefully fit into district lines.

During the redistricting process, Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said one of his panel’s goals was to reduce the number of precincts with low numbers of voters in them.

In such precincts, “it takes just as much to man with a machine and to have your workers there,” Henry said.

“That’s something we were striving to do originally when we did the redistricting,” Henry said Tuesday.

At one point, Mullis-Morgan said, her staff was shooting to save as much as $75,000 a year, but the state’s drastically different boundaries made that impossible.

“I was hoping it was going to be more,” Henry said. “But I’m glad that figure came in.”

Though the new maps make changes to precincts, Mullis-Morgan said the election commission shouldn’t have to add any new polling places.

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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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