published Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Hamilton County Commission holds first redistricting meeting

by Dan Whisenhunt

Hamilton County commissioners began the process of redrawing commission district lines Wednesday.

Several commissioners met at the Election Commission office to look at software they will use to draw district lines.

County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said commissioners will start holding regular redistricting meetings before their biweekly Thursday agenda sessions.

Redistricting takes place at all political levels after each 10-year U.S. census. The aim is to ensure that voting districts have similar populations and equal representation.

Evenly dividing the county population into nine County Commission districts will require drawing districts with about 37,385 people each.

Commissioner Chester Bankston’s District 9 in eastern Hamilton County tallied about 44,500 people in the 2010 census, up about 11,000, the largest growth in the nine districts. He probably will have to give up some territory and residents in the redistricting.

Some who attended Wednesday’s meeting had their own ideas about how the commission, with a 7-2 Republican majority, should draw up districts.

John Beck, a local resident, said all nine districts should have the same population “so everybody’s vote has the same weight.”

Joe Rowe, a vice president of the local NAACP, said the county should change its two primarily black districts — 4 and 5 — from 54 percent black to 60 percent black.

“It increases the opportunity for blacks to elect a person of their choice,” he said.

Greg Beck represents District 5 and Warren Mackey District 4. Both are black.

Charlotte Mullis-Morgan, administrator of elections, said the deadline to draw up new districts is Jan. 1, 2012. The County Commission then must approve new district boundaries.

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about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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