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Warren County completes redistricting
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The Warren County Commission voted unanimously to approve the resolution to adopt a reapportionment/ redistricting plan for Warren County. The vote was 23-0 with one commissioner absent.
The five-member Redistricting Committee was made up of E911 director Chuck Haston, election administrator Donna Smith, Planning Committee member Robert Collier, and commissioners Michael Martin and George Smartt.
Federal and state law requires redistricting be done every 10 years along with the census. Nationally, the Constitution states once the census is complete, the U.S. House of Representatives must be reapportioned in line with each state’s population. States that grow significantly, for instance, may gain a representative in the House.
Redistricting is done locally to ensure each of the county’s 12 districts has an equal number of voters within a standard deviation of 10 percent.
“This is something the state mandates we do,” said County Executive John Pelham.
Warren County’s population grew a modest 4.1 percent over the last decade, according to 2010 census data. The population breakdown was as follows:
• Warren County total population: 39,839
• McMinnville: 13,605
• Morrison: 694
• Centertown: 243
• Viola: 131
The county had 5,415 births and 4,250 deaths, for a net increase of 1,165.
The county went high tech with redistricting this year, using a computer program called ArcGIS for Desktop 10. Haston, who has extensive experience with satellite data in his position as E911 director, said the program was a major benefit, since it provided instant feedback when changes were made.
“All of our data came from the state,” said Haston. “And our goal was to come up with as close to 3,319 per district as we could within the 10 percent standard deviation. This is the first time we have received this information digitally. The last time they did this they used paper maps.”
The 3,319 figure was obtained by dividing the county’s total population of 39,839 by 12, the number of districts.
With partisan politics at an all-time high in America, many experts feel the situation is ripe for gerrymandering, a process where districts are drawn up to provide an advantage to one party or another.
According to the Ballotpedia website, the 2010 midterm elections gave Tennessee Republicans the governorship, control of both the state’s House and Senate along with seven of nine Congressional seats, meaning 2011 became the first time in the state’s history the GOP would control redistricting. Some say there could be some major changes.
State redistricting changes have yet to be finalized. As far as gerrymandering, Haston says this was a non-issue in Warren County.
“In order to do this you’d have to know the voting habits of the people in the districts and the census blocks,” Haston said. “We didn’t know who the people were in the districts, or even how many were old enough to vote. So I don’t see how you could do that here. As a matter of fact, we didn’t discuss political affiliation in any of the meetings. It was all about mathematics.”
There were changes to some districts, according to Haston.
“There were changes in District 5, District 2 and District 3,” Haston said. “There were some smaller changes, I believe, in District 6. Districts 7, 11 and 12 had no changes.”
District 5 had the biggest change with 395 needed to bring it up to the 3,319, plus or minus 5 percent. In order to do this, a census block from District 3 and one from District 8 were moved to District 5. Haston said they were unable to get 0 percent deviation on any of the districts, but overall came out within the 10 percent.
“Before we started we had an overall deviation of 21 percent total for all districts,” Haston said. “When we were through, we were at 9.4 percent deviation total, which is within the 10 percent required by the state.”
That was the plan presented to the county commission at its monthly meeting.
“We’re done now because the plan’s been approved by the commission,” Haston said. “Now it’s just a question of me packaging this together electronically and providing it to the state.”
The deadline for completion of redistricting is Jan. 1, so the county is well ahead of schedule.
Haston said he was pleased to be involved in this process.
“This is one of those things where you know it goes on and people do it, but you’ve never really had your finger in it,” Haston said. “But it’s really fascinating to be involved in some kind of constitutional process to me. It’s like, wow, this is what it’s all about. I mean, you’ve got this committee and you’re doing this on the behalf of the community. It’s a necessary thing, and it just shows you our great constitution at work.”