Better Brookhaven co-founder: Redistricting was too much, too fast

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

Better Brookhaven co-founder Emma Devine told City aldermen this week she had concerns over the recent vote to approve ward redistricting.

Better Brookhaven is a non-profit that works in part for citizen empowerment. Devine made her comments during the board’s first regular meeting of September.

“I have two points in particular,” Devine said. “I think there was not ample opportunity to get a full understanding of the changes coming. Redistricting goes into effect 10 days from today (Sept. 15).”

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Her second concern was over the voting process to approve the redistricting.

“Before the 4-3 vote, there seemed to be an unspoken uncertainty on the board — it may be just my perception — but it seemed the mayor had to coerce the board to get a second (on the motion),” Devine said. “It was disconcerting.”

The vote should have been postponed under those circumstances, Devine said, and handled with more transparency.

She closed her comments with a request for the board to consider moving to a larger meeting place to accommodate all citizens who wished to attend regular meetings. Several people stand in the hallways or sit in the atrium area of the government building during meetings because there is no space for them in the boardroom, she said.


Adjusted wards

Under the redistricting, the wards will be adjusted as follows:

  • Ward 1 — existing overall population of 1,760; adjusted population of 1,887; voting age population moves from 1,300 to 1,393.
  • Ward 2 — existing overall population of 1,997; adjusted population remains the same; voting age population also remains the same, at 1,442.
  • Ward 3 — existing overall population of 1,681; adjusted population of 1,857; voting age population moves from 1,312 to 1,444.
  • Ward 4 — existing overall population of 2,131; adjusted population of 1,912; voting age population moves from 1,627 to 1,463.
  • Ward 5 — existing overall population of 2,138; adjusted population of 1,994; voting age population moves from 1,720 to 1,606.
  • Ward 6 — existing overall population of 1,967; adjusted population of 2,027; voting age population moves from 1,469 to 1,521.

The racial makeup of the voting age population also must be taken into account for redistricting. The Voting Rights Act mandates that redistricting must demonstrate that changes have neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect. Minority voters must not be “worse off” than they were in the existing distribution.

The following changes will take place under the new plan:

  • Ward 1 — existing: 9.6% white; 86.6% black; 3.8% other; proposed: 12.2% white; 84.1% black; 3.7% other.
  • Ward 2 — existing and proposed remain the same: 16.9% white; 80.2% black; 2.9% other.
  • Ward 3 — existing: 20.7% white; 75.8% black; 3.5% other; proposed: 25.1% white; 71.3% black; 3.7% other.
  • Ward 4 — existing: 91.2% white; 5% black; 3.8% other; proposed: 91.3% white; 5% black; 3.8% other.
  • Ward 5 — existing: 57.7% white; 37.2% black; 5.2% other; proposed: 62.6% white; 32% black; 5.4% other.
  • Ward 6 — existing: 37.8% white; 58.3% black; 3.9% other; proposed: 36.6% white; 59.7% black; 3.7% other.

In each ward, racial population changes at most by a total of 5% of the total voting population in that ward. Citywide, Brookhaven’s voting age population is 41.4% white, 54.7% black and 3.9% other.

View the current ward map and the newly approved map here.