Redrawn district lines await public approval

Published 6:59 am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In about two weeks, Pike County residents will be able to voice their concerns, or blessings, during a public hearing regarding the redrawn district lines for the county.

The Pike County Board of Education and the Pike County Commission met in Montgomery on Friday to adjust the county’s redistricting plan. The groups had based their initial plan off data that was corrupted during a demographer’s interpretation of 2010 Census numbers. An attorney for the county said it is unclear where the numerical error occurred during the process, but it wasn’t intentional by the demographer.

Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent for Pike County Schools, said the meeting Friday began at 8:30 in the morning and lasted until around lunchtime.

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“If everything goes as planned, I feel confident we should be able to get our primaries in without any problems,” he said.

Time is of the essence. A public hearing will be advertised in the newspaper for two weeks prior to the meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 3, 2012, at the courthouse. After the new district lines are discussed, both groups will break to meet separately and approve or vote against the proposed map. That decision will happen on the same night. The Department of Justice will then have 60 days after receiving the plan to issue a “preclearance,” which is akin to an approval.

Preclearance must be achieved prior to the March 13, 2012, elections in order to prevent the need for a special election.

Because new district lines call for an adjustment of voter precincts, as well, the county commission still has a little work to do. County Administrator Harry Sanders said he expects that to be completed in the next couple of days.

“I am sure we are going to have some folks out there who have voted a lifetime in one place that will now see a change,” Sanders said, adding that although the change is unfortunate for some, there was no avoiding it due to population numbers.

Some adjustments were made due to growth inside the city limits of Troy. Sanders explained that the changes produced a ripple effect. District 2, Troy, gave up some numbers to District 3, which in turn caused District 3 to give up some numbers to District 4.

Commissioner Charlie Harris of District 5 said he feels much better about the readjusted lines. He said, in his district, he lost about 18 people, but gained about 30 from another district. “I hated to lose some of my key people who voted for me, but everybody lost someone,” Harris said. “The kind of growth we saw required it.”