Henderson only hold-out on redistricting maps

Most officials indicated they favor this map, identified as Proposal 6, over Proposal 4.
 :Existing district map
 :Proposal 4, one of two redistricting maps proposed by officials 

Most officials indicated they favor this map, identified as Proposal 6, over Proposal 4. :Existing district map :Proposal 4, one of two redistricting maps proposed by officials 

COVINGTON - J.C. Henderson isn't giving up ground as the only elected official from the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education who opposes two proposed redistricting maps.

Though nine of the 10 officials involved are satisfied with the maps and ready to move forward and make a decision on which one to adopt, Henderson said at a joint meeting Tuesday night he's not happy with changes to District 4.

With District 4 set to gain about 7,000 people and District 3 in need of losing that many, officials say it's easy to determine how to handle redistricting -- simply remove the excess population from District 3 and place them in District 4.

But Henderson said he doesn't want all of the District 4 additions to come from the west. He said he wants to eliminate Double Gate subdivision, added to District 4 from District 3, and instead add 1,200 residents from District 4 on the Bypass. Henderson created his own alternative map, aided by the county GIS department, to the two maps that were drawn by board members during visits to the Reapportionment Office in Atlanta. Officials expressed exasperation and anger with Henderson for creating a map they said had already been determined not to meet criteria.

Henderson said he needs to see how District 4 would change under the new proposals and that was never clear during the meetings at the Reapportionment Office. He also said officials did not give his suggestions a fair chance.

"Unfortunately, ya'll were drawing the maps for me," he said.

However, other elected officials said they were able to view proposed maps overlaid with the existing maps in order to see how the districts would change. Shakila Henderson-Baker, who represents District 3 on the Board of Education, said officials sat back and allowed Henderson to draw his own map in Atlanta. That map looked very similar to the one he proposed Tuesday night, she said, and when the population figures were run at the Reapportionment Office, they did not meet the standard deviation criteria. All districts deviate less than 1 percent from the ideal population of 19,991 per district on both proposed maps.

"I'm just not going to let you sit here and lie ... You can't sit here, having taken an oath, and just make things up," Henderson-Baker told Henderson. She added that there were certain areas of District 3 that she didn't want to give up but, "the bottom line is it has to be done."

District 1 Board of Education member Jeff Meadors said the boards have met four times to discuss the maps, and Henderson has been given his fair chance to speak each time and "you have not proven your numbers work."

"They didn't work because we didn't give them time to work," Henderson said. Henderson said he was rushed out of the Reapportionment Office. "No matter what I said, we were ready to go and we weren't coming back," he said.

Even Henderson's District 4 counterpart on the Board of Education, Almond Turner, disagreed with his statements.

"District 4 is intact. We didn't lose anything," he said following Henderson's statements that he wanted to keep the district just as it was. Turner said the only change is the addition of residents in order to meet the requirements of the redistricting process. "It's not like we're just picking areas. We're taking into consideration the racial make-up of those areas," he added.

Under Department of Justice criteria for redistricting, minority districts cannot be diluted. Both districts 3 and 4 are minority districts, and that would not change under the proposed maps.

County Attorney Tommy Craig suggested allowing Henderson to go back to the Reapportionment Office and have them run population numbers with his map to see if it meets criteria or having the whole group go back to Atlanta, although no consensus was made. Henderson has the right to create his own map to present to officials, Craig said. Another work session will likely take place next week.

Craig said a unanimous consensus on a redistricting map is preferred in order to avoid denial by the Department of Justice. In addition, the local legislative delegation to the Georgia General Assembly has said it will require a unanimous consensus before presenting the maps to the state body, a necessary step before it is sent to the Department of Justice.

Minority members of the boards will be contacted privately by the Department of Justice to make sure they were not coerced into approving a map they did not want, according to Craig.

Officials must approve a map by Jan. 3 in order to get approval from the state and federal governments in time for qualifying for the 2012 General Primary.

To view proposed redistricting maps, visit www.newtoncitizen.com.