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Council weighs need to redistrict

Census data show significant shifts

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POSTED: April 11, 2011 9:19 a.m.

Now that the 2010 Census numbers are out, many cities and counties across Georgia may decide to redraw voting districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act, and Hinesville is no exception.
The Voting Rights Act outlawed discriminatory voting practices in 1965, particularly as it pertained to the disenfranchisement of minority voters. The act also served to diversify the electorate, according www.civilrights.org.
City attorney Linnie Darden informed the council Thursday the city’s preliminary data show significant shifts in voting districts and therefore council members should consider whether or not they want to redistrict. Darden said the discussion needs to be held now, as district lines should be “set” before late August. The qualifying period for the upcoming municipal election starts Aug. 29, he said. Hinesville will hold its municipal election Nov. 8.
If the council decides to redraw district lines or to add a district, the proposed redistricting must first be cleared through the Justice Department, Darden said.
Redistricting is not mandatory or required, but not adhering to the spirit of the Voting Rights Act could open the city up to legal challenges, he told the council. Darden said the act promotes the concept of one person, one vote.
District 4 Council Member Keith Jenkins expressed concern redistricting could “confuse” voters.
“Gentlemen, we are not asking you to make a decision today,” City Manager Billy Edwards said. “We will continue to provide you information so you can make a decision when the time is right.”
Since 2000, the city’s voting districts have each averaged about 6,000 constituents in each of its five districts, Edwards said.
Darden told council members District 2 lost about 600 voters and District 4 gained about 2,500.
Edwards cautioned the district figures are “raw data” and the latest Census numbers have not yet been certified. Darden said the 2010 Census should be certified in May.
Edwards said this is only the first step in determining variations in voter distribution. He and Darden said data regarding race has not yet been examined. 
“Some of the census blocks are different than they were in 2000,” Edwards explained. “Some council district lines bisect census blocks. We’ve not yet gone through the process of allocating the population within that census block appropriately to the respective council districts. Once we go through reapportioning, we may have a different picture and there won’t be as much a disparity as it appears to be right now.”
In other city business:
•    Hinesville public relations manager Krystal Britton announced the winners of the city’s middle-school essay contest, “If I were mayor for a day.” First Presbyterian Christian Academy student Mary Kathryn Whitney won first place, Midway Middle School student Andrea Redding took second place and Snelson-Golden Middle School student Nathan Wallace came in third.
•    Britton informed the council Georgia Cities Week will be April 17-23. The program is part of an ongoing effort to raise public awareness and increase public involvement in local government, she said. The annual program is sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association.

 

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