published Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Chattanooga City Council to review redistricting plan

by Cliff Hightower

Audio clip

City Council meeting - 11/15/2011

The Chattanooga City Council's legal and legislative committee voted Tuesday to look more closely at a proposed plan that would have three "strong" districts with a majority of minority voters.

A fourth district could waffle on the edge of being a swing district for minority voters.

But Joe Rowe, vice president for the local NAACP, still wasn't convinced that the committee, made up of all nine council members, was doing enough.

"I saw a significant amount of African-Americans that could be moved to another district," Rowe said.

The council redrew the district lines after hearing complaints from Rowe over the last three weeks that it was not paying attention to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Rowe maintains the council should have a 65 percent majority of minorities, mainly black, within the city's districts that have a majority of minority voters.

The new proposed map would have three districts that are 61 percent to 67 percent black while a fourth district would hover at 50 percent black. The majority districts are 5, 8 and 9 with 7 as the swing.

Councilman Andraé McGary asked if there were rules stating that 65 percent black is mandatory.

City Attorney Mike McMahan said 65 percent is considered "strong," while 60 percent would be considered "less strong." Anything within the 50 percent range of black voters would be considered an influential district, he said.

"What if we shot for 60?" McGary asked. "I'd like to see an option at 60."

The council plans on taking up redistricting once again during the legal and legislative committee meeting next Tuesday at 3 p.m.

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