Redistricting plays major role in lives, future

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, March 13, 2011

Redistricting remains far from a sexy subject for everydaycitizens, but the consequences of the controversial subject can befar-reaching.

That is why state lawmakers have been going back and forth latelyover plans that would divide their legislative districts. Thedecisions made now will influence state politics for the next 10years and maybe beyond.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political fence recognize theimportance of what is happening now. Republicans are looking tocapitalize on growth areas of the state and further the momentumgained during recent elections while Democrats are looking to holdon to the power they have in the House of Representatives and makeinroads in the GOP-leaning Senate.

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The partisan play – on display from both parties – appears to besetting the state up for legislative elections this year undercurrent lines and again next year under new lines. To get U.S.Department of Justice approval in time to avoid that do-overscenario, lawmakers would need to settle on legislative districtlines by April 1.

On a smaller – and far less politicized – scale, Lincoln Countysupervisors learned this week that their district lines also needto be redrawn.

The reason is that population shifts around the county have causeddistrict populations to be too far out of balance with one-man,one-vote provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Legal precedents have allowed a 10 percent variance from themost-populous district to the least-populous district. LincolnCounty’s variance is just over 40 percent.

After getting the census population totals so close to a March 1qualifying deadline, supervisors are hoping have elections thisyear as scheduled under current lines and show the JusticeDepartment a “good faith” effort toward redrawing lines in time forthe next elections in 2015. By following that path, countyofficials are hoping to avoid some more costly possibilities.

Redistricting could also impact Brookhaven municipal ward lines,but the timetable is far less pressing. Aldermen will have todetermine if ward lines need to be redrawn, but that decision onlyhas to be made in time for the next city elections in 2013.

Whether at the state, county or city level, redistricting has agreat influence on who may be our elected leaders. And thoseleaders are the ones who make the decisions that affect theirconstituents’ everyday lives.

For those reasons, redistricting is far more than merely drawinglines on a map. It has the power to shape lives and the future.