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County may be divided into 10 districts

An additional legislative district is included on a preliminary redistricting map to meet the equal population requirement based on growth in Washington County during the last 10 years.
GIS Specialist Chris Pape, of the Zoning Administrator’s Office, presented the map during the Nov. 7 meeting of the Redistricting Committee.
Pape said the biggest growth has been in the first district.
Because districts are limited to 5,000 registered voters, Pape said 2,200 voters in the first district had to be shifted out and spread among multiple districts.
Another big change is the shifting of Leesburg from the seventh district to the sixth and eighth districts. The proposed 10th district is made up of the Cherokee Outside and Lamar voting precincts.
While the Redistricting Committee recommended retaining the maximum-allowed 25 commissioners, a recommendation on increasing or decreasing the current nine districts has not been made. The minimum allowed per county is three, with a maximum of 25 districts.
Input from county commissioners, school board members, constables and the election commission was considered when making the adjustments.
“I made every attempt to include all the requests,” Pape said. “The biggest battle has been the census blocks which can’t be split.” Washington County has approximately 4,400 census blocks.
Voters must be shifted among the school board districts also to equalize the populations, Pape said.
Constable Rick Gillenwater suggested leaving the districts as they are, but County Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford explained the changes are mandated by state and federal laws.
Citizen James Reeves described himself as a guy who loves the rules, but attended the meeting to express his displeasure about the redistricting guidelines that allow one to three commissioners per district to meet the equal representation requirement.
“I read the Redistricting Handbook last week, and the example they use is ridiculous,” he said.
According to the handbook, the example of dividing the population by the number of commissioners represents the ideal population each commissioner would represent. That population is then compared to the number of registered voters in each district.
A larger-populated district may require two or three commissioners to represent the same number of people one commissioner represents in a more rural district.
Reeves said it is wrong that some citizens are able to vote and call on three different commissioners while other citizens are only able to vote and call on one commissioner.
County Attorney John Rambo said he knows of no successful cases opposing the one-to-three-commissioner format.
“The courts have not said this is illegal representation,” he added.
A counter argument that could be considered, Rambo said, is that the people with more representation must share that representation with more people.
Commissioner Mitch Meredith said he understood the point Reeves was making.
“The people in a three-representative district could have three commission votes on their behalf while a person in District 10 would have only one commission vote,” he said.
During one of the early redistricting meetings, Meredith suggested having 25 districts with one commissioner representing each.
The preliminary redistricting map shows the 25-member commission divided as three commissioners each serving in the first, second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh districts; two commissioners each serving in the fifth, eighth and ninth districts; and one commissioner representing the 10th district.
Commissioner Gerald Sparks made a motion to forward the preliminary map to Election Commissioner Connie Sinks for review. Commissioner Mark Ferguson seconded the motion, which passed, with Commissioner Roger Nave opposed.
The Redistricting Committee was expected meet again on Monday, Nov. 14, with hopes of taking the map to the full commission during its November meeting.