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Changes coming to voting districts
Warren County redistricting.jpg
The process of redistricting in Warren County has begun. Pictured, from left, are Commissioners Phillip Stout and Tyrone Sparkman with Warren County election administrator Susie Davenport during the first meeting to discuss how best to divide the population into 12 almost equal districts. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Changes must be made to Warren County’s 12 voting districts in order to balance the current population of 40,953 equally. Who will be moved has yet to be determined.

The county Redistricting Committee met Tuesday to give initial consideration to balancing the population. Ideally, each of the 12 districts should have 3,413 residents. 

Currently, District 2 has 404 more and District 5 has 243 less than the ideal number. All others fall between the two.

“We’re going to have to make more changes this time than we did last time,” said Chuck Haston, E-911 director. “Last time, we did just the necessary changes to bring each district into compliance and then we stopped. The philosophy was to just do what it takes. It’s up to those of you here how we look at that this time.” 

Committee members are Commissioners Randy England, Tyrone Sparkman, Phillip Stout and Daniel Owens. The county has until Dec. 31 to propose changes, hold a public viewing, get full Warren County Commission approval, and present changes to the Comptroller of the Treasury.

“Each district must be within a 10% margin – that’s the safe harbor,” said Haston. “You can have a district outside that 10% but it takes you out of the safe harbor and the County Commission must justify it.” 

Haston suggested a subtle shifting of lines and avoiding any major changes.

“Is population the only thing considered?” asked IDB director Don Alexander. “No other demographic?”

Haston replied, “There is one thing. It has to do with counting the prison population. That’s the only caveat that I’m aware of. This is totally based on census data and that’s it.”

Warren County election administrator Susie Davenport asked that commissioners avoid dividing neighborhoods.

“Looking at pure numbers is good, but there are geographic and community features that we do need to look at a little bit,” said Davenport, who discouraged relocating a handful residents within a neighborhood into a different district than everyone else. “We did that last time. Those people were definitely a part of that community, but we dropped six of them into a different district. If you would indulge me in preventing that this time, I would appreciate it.”

The county Redistricting Committee is set to meet again Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. to continue the discussion.