Redistricting: What’s that all about?

County Commissioners are meeting in special session Thursday, November 4 to officially approve a redistricting plan for Lawrence County based on 2020 Census numbers.

A Redistricting Committee was appointed several months ago to coordinate this process. Chaired by Scott Franks, it includes Administrator of Elections Tanya White, Commissioners Aaron Story, Shane Eaton, John Bradley, Chris Jackson, Alanna Harris, Phillip Heatherly, and Ricky Skillington.

The committee voted early on to keep Lawrence County divided into 18 districts, represented by one Commissioner each. The idea of cutting that number in half – nine districts, nine Commissioners – was bounced around briefly, but lacked support.

At one point I thought fewer Commissioners might be a good idea, but my mind was changed with a single question from Commissioner Wayne Yocom. “What have we not accomplished with 18 that we could have done with nine?”

The full Commission agreed with a unanimous vote at their September 28 meeting. The Redistricting Committee then set to work with the County Technical Advisory Service (CTAS) to redraw District lines to achieve a population variance of less than ten percent between them.

The 2020 Census showed we have 44,159 residents, an increase of 2,290 over the last ten years. Growth was not spread equally across the districts, but took place primarily in the northeast quadrant of our county. That means those districts needed to shrink geographically, and others needed to expand.

Accomplishing that would be very difficult without CTAS and a computer mapping system that shows the population of every census block in Lawrence County.  Census blocks are established by the U.S. Census Bureau – small areas bounded by visible features like roads, streams, railroad tracks, and invisible boundaries like property lines and city limits. There are 11,078,297 census blocks in the U.S.

The mapping system shows how many people live in each census block, a number that can vary from just a few (or none) to several hundred. CTAS staff could reposition district lines onscreen to add or subtract one or more census blocks and make the population in our districts as equal as possible.

The final result was impressive. Lawrence County’s new Commission districts have a one to five percent population variance, well below the legal limit.

What does all this mean for you? Nothing, until you start thinking about who you’ll vote for as your Commissioner (and School Board member) in the August 4, 2022 County General Election. You could be in a different district, with a different voting precinct. New district maps will be posted on our website soon.

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