Social Circle wants fifth option for redistricting

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- In an effort to ensure two of the four City Council districts are "strong minority districts," the Social Circle City Council has directed a fifth draft of new district lines be drawn.

The city must adjust district lines as a result of the 2010 census. The lines are drawn so they represent as close to 1,057 residents per council member district and so that black residents are not disenfranchised, as stipulated under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1964.

The City Council reviewed the fourth draft of redrawn district lines during its monthly meeting last Tuesday, but not all council members were satisfied.

"Option 4 is heading in the way I'd like to see it go; however, we're trying to establish two minority districts ... but District 1 should be increased," said Traysa Price, who represents Social Circle District 1.

Councilwoman Angela Porter, who represents District 2, concurred.

"Per our attorney, there should be two strong minority districts," she said.

According to the analysis prepared by the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, only District 2 is a majority-minority district, with 63.06 of the population minority. District 4 has the next highest percentage of minorities -- 46.25 percent -- and District 1 is currently 37.93 percent minority. Minorities constitute 26.83 percent of District 2.

Under Option 4, the most recent draft of proposed district lines, 50.63 percent of District 1 would be minority while District 4 would drop to 12.76 percent minority. District 2 would decrease its minority population just slightly to 61.15 percent and minorities in District 3 would make up about 34.03 percent of the residents.

Price said she would like to see District 1 be more than 51 percent minority. Porter said it would be preferable if minorities constituted about 60 percent of two districts.

Mayor Jim Burgess suggested that decreasing the population of District 3 from 1,046 to 1,000 and shifting those residents to District 1 would probably bump District 1's minority percentage past 51 percent.

David Keener, who represents District 3, pointed out that if this happened, his district, which had been the largest with 1,513 people, would now be the smallest.

The redistricting process began in April when Burgess asked City Manager Doug White and Price to work with the state Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Municipal Association to apply for a population recount. The mayor was concerned the Census Bureau had undercounted the population in Social Circle, which could leave the city open to legal challenges if City Council district lines were not representative. Burgess said time was of the essence due to this year's elections for mayor and City Council Districts 2 and 4.

Once the City Council concurs on a map, a public hearing must be held and then the Council must vote to approve the new lines at its next regular meeting.

Since the Council has sent the maps back for another draft, August would be the earliest a vote could be taken.

After that, the newly approved district maps would have to be sent to the U.S. Department of Justice for its approval.

Candidates for municipal offices must qualify for election between Aug. 29 and Sept. 2.