Redrawing voting lines: Work set to begin in April

Photo by Jeff Blevins

Photo by Jeff Blevins

CONYERS -- Next month, the Rockdale County Elections Board will begin the work of redistricting following the release of the 2010 census.

Board members will be prepped at their April 5 meeting on what to expect in the coming months concerning redrawing of congressional and state government districts. Elections Supervisor Cynthia Welch said Friday she will provide an expected timeline of events that will take place this year for reapportionment.

The work by nature will be complex because of the required preclearance from the federal Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, municipal elections scheduled for November and pending legislation at the Georgia General Assembly.

Welch said she has already discussed with her staff to expect long hours and little time off between now and after the 2012 general elections.

"If we can get everything planned and not have any other issue come up that could impede on the redistricting plan, then we should be OK," she said.

Welch said the city of Conyers will get its council districts redrawn first because of the upcoming city elections. She expects the city to be able to have council districts ready for federal approval by May.

The deadline is to have everything done before candidate qualifying in August. That includes a 60-day window the U.S. Department of Justice requires to consider reapportionment changes.

Welch said her office will work to have any precinct changes for the city submitted to the Department of Justice at the same time as city officials submit their council districts. She said it would save time, but there are no guarantees that both will get federal approval at the same time.

"What it does is save you a lot of time rather than waiting for the city of Conyers to get a piece of paper in their hands giving the Justice Department's blessing," she said. "We'll go ahead and process the changes and make the request, but we will not move any of the voters until we receive approval."

Welch said the Elections Board will take a close look at merging Olde Towne and Conyers voting precincts into one. Local precincts are not restricted by size, but there has to be a guarantee the county Elections Board can provide enough voting machines, personnel and a large enough location to handle a precinct of 6,000 voters.

Olde Towne precinct is at Pine Street Elementary School and Conyers precinct is at Conyers First United Methodist Church on Main Street.

At the same time, state legislators will work on statewide reapportionment.

Welch said she is expecting the state reappointment office to release detailed information from the census count to break down voting age population and provide a racial breakdown.

Though no date is set, the General Assembly will need to hold a special session sometime in late April or early May to redraw state House and Senate districts, along with congressional districts.

Thanks to the state's growth, Georgia will receive a new congressional district. Georgia had the third-highest numeric rise in population in the nation behind California and Texas. Georgia had 1.5 million more residents than it did 10 years ago, for a new population total of 9.6 million.

Once the local Elections Board receives the new districts from the state, staff will be given the task to adjust the county precincts to conform with the state and congressional district lines.