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County ready for possible redistricting
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Warren County government has been tasked with redistricting the county after the 2010 census. Documentation has to be submitted to the state by Jan. 1.
County Executive John Pelham says the county is well on its way to beginning the process, having already appointed a Redistricting Committee, which was approved by the Warren County Commission at its June meeting. The five-member committee is composed of Donna Yates, Robert Collier, George Smartt, Michael Martin and Chuck Haston.
Redistricting is done because a census can reveal major changes in population which could give one district an advantage over another. Pelham says the population in Warren County grew by a modest 4.1 percent over the past decade, and since there is a standard deviation of 10 percent, there will probably be little change in Warren County’s 12 districts.
The redistricting also has the potential to change Warren County’s state and federal representatives. It’s possible redistricting could result in Warren County having elected officials other than state Reps. Judd Matheny and Charles Curtiss, state Sen. Eric Stewart, and Congressman Scott DesJarlais.
Redistricting happened locally in 2002 when Warren County switched from voting for the state House seat long held by Shelby Rhinehart to the seat held by Butch Lewis, who was defeated by Matheny in the 2002 election.
Pelham reported the population breakdown from the 2010 census as:
• Warren County total population: 39,839
• McMinnville: 13,605
• Morrison: 694
• Centertown: 243
• Viola: 131
Pelham then outlined the growth statistics for the county.
“Over the 10 years since the last census we had 5,415 births,” Pelham said. “And we had 4,250 deaths, so we had a net increase of 1,165.”
Pelham says the Jan. 1 deadline will require the county to have the data completed at least one month ahead since it has to be approved by the County Commission.
“We actually have to have it done in time for the December docket,” Pelham said. “We could possibly have it on the October or November docket. We can’t wait until the last of the year to have it done, because it does have to pass the county court.”
In explaining how the Redistricting Committee was selected, Pelham said in the meetings he has attended about redistricting it had been suggested to have someone from the Election Commission included.
“I asked Donna (Yates) to serve on the committee, since she’s over the Election Commission,” Pelham said. “Then we went back to when we did the redistricting in 2000 and we actually have two commissioners that are still serving that were serving then on that committee, and that’s George Smartt and Michael Martin, so for that reason, because they have previous experience, we added them.”
Pelham said he also chose Collier because of the makeup of  the 2010 committee.
“I chose him because of his position,” Pelham said. “He is chairman of the Planning Commission, which was represented in the 2000 committee, so there was a precedent there,” Pelham said.
Haston was chosen because of his familiarity with the computer program which will be used for the redistricting process and his expertise as the director of the local E911 system.
“So that’s how we came up with the committee,” Pelham said.
Yates and Pelham’s executive assistant Carol Cantrell traveled to Nashville to take training on the computer program that will be used to prepare the redistricting data.
“Obviously this happens every 10 years, and it happens in association with the census,” Pelham said. “And as to the reason we have redistricting, it is all about equal representation.”
For much of the history of the U.S. voting districts could have widely varying populations, which obviously gave the more populous districts more power at the polls. Eventually this situation was challenged in the courts, and the concept of “one person, one vote” made its way to the Supreme Court in several cases in the 1960s. In one of those cases the court ruled that districts be required to be equal in population, and that “as nearly as practicable one man’s vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another’s.”
In another case the court also addressed the issue, ruling “once the geographical unit for which a representative is to be chosen is designated, all who participate in the election are to have an equal vote — whatever their race, whatever their sex, whatever their occupation, whatever their income, and wherever their home may be in that geographic unit. This is required by the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”