Like many cities across the United States, Hinesville is drawing closer to establishing new voting districts.
At a city council meeting Thursday, Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards informed council members the council first must approve an ordinance to amend the city’s charter before officials can vote to adopt newly redrawn districts. The council will consider this ordinance at two regular consecutive meetings July 21 and Aug. 4, Edwards said.
Hinesville began its redistricting process in April, after the council discussed redrawing voting districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act concept of one person, one vote.
City attorney Linnie Darden had told the council the city’s 2010 Census data showed significant shifts in voting districts. Darden recommended new district lines be set before the Aug. 29 qualifying period for the Nov. 8 municipal election.
Edwards said any proposed redistricting first must be cleared through the Justice Department, before the city can establish new district lines.
Mayor Jim Thomas said it may take the Justice Department some time to verify the city’s proposed redistricting, as the department will have a backlog of proposed changes to review from cities, counties and states.
"We hope to get it (back) before the (Aug. 29) qualifying date," Thomas said.
Georgia state officials also are discussing redistricting. House and Senate committees are meeting this month to redraw 180 state House districts and 56 state Senate seats and a special legislative session will be held Aug. 15 to debate the issue.
"It’s always an interesting time," Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, said of redrawing district lines. "I’m hoping to keep Liberty County one district."
Williams said the previous requirement for state House representatives, set after the 2000 Census, was 45,000 people per district. Due to growth over the past decade, the requirement has increased to 53,000, he said.
"I’m 4,200-4,300 people short," Williams said, adding the county numbers are around 49,000. The representative from Midway represented part of McIntosh, Glynn and Liberty counties before 2004.
"We’re going to lose approximately six house seats in Southeast Georgia. There’s a lot of speculation; no one knows where it will come from specifically," he said.
Most of the state’s population growth has been in North Georgia, and Williams predicts metro-Atlanta will receive an additional seat.
"I want to keep Liberty County intact," he said. "We’re a community of interest."
State Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, agreed, saying its best to keep "communities of interest" like Liberty County together.
Carter said he must give up 12,000 people because he’s 12,000 over in his district, according to the new voting district requirements.
"Everyone knows what they have to do," he said. "There will be some give and take from everybody."