COVINGTON -- The public will have a first opportunity to view and comment on proposed reapportionment maps at a joint meeting between the Newton County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The meeting will take place at the Newton County Historic Courthouse at 1124 Clark St.
The purpose of the meeting is to educate the public and obtain input on the maps in order to determine which one will ultimately be adopted. Chairman Kathy Morgan said nine of the 10 members of the BOE and BOC have informally agreed on two separate proposed maps. District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson has stated he needs more time to consider the options, she said.
District 4 stands to gain about 7,000 voters and District 3 will lose about that many, but, "Everybody had to compromise. Nobody was untouched," Morgan said.
"It's about getting a balanced district, a balanced county. It's not about creating a district to try to make sure someone is reelected," she said, adding that officials have taken great care to make sure the proposed maps, drawn with the help of the Georgia Reapportionment Services Office, meet reapportionment criteria. "We don't want this map to be challenged by an organization or individual. We want to get it right the first time. All of them took it very seriously."
Tuesday's meeting will take the place of the regular BOC meeting, which has been canceled. It will include an overview by the County Attorney's Office, and an opportunity for citizen and elected officials' comments.
Based on the 2010 Census, the county's population is 99,958. When that total is divided by five, the number of districts in the county, the ideal population per district is 19,991. Previously, it was required that each district fall within 5 percent of that ideal, but that no longer assures approval by the Justice Department, County Attorney Tommy Craig previously told officials. What matters most is that the plan is unanimously approved by both boards. Morgan said the goal has been to keep districts within 1 percent of the ideal.
Craig has advised officials that the reapportionment plan must pass Constitutional muster, including requirements under the Voting Rights Act that prohibit gerrymandering and retrogression, or making a minority group worse off than it was before redistricting. Districts 3 and 4 must be maintained as majority minority districts, with at least 50 percent plus one comprised of black voters. Currently, District 3 is 57 percent black, and 53 percent of those blacks are of voting age. District 4 is 59 percent black, with 55 percent of those of voting age.
Morgan said the county has notified the U.S. Census Bureau it may appeal Census 2010 data, but no appeal has yet been made. Morgan said even if the numbers are appealed and altered, they are not significant enough to impact redistricting.
Local legislation needs to be drafted by the start of the General Assembly in January and must be passed and pre-clearance granted prior to qualifying for the 2012 primary, which takes place May 23-25. The primary itself will be held July 31. The new map will take effect during the 2012 election cycle.