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Reapportionment Committee plans for possible changes

If Washington County is allowed to complete a new redistricting process, members of the Reapportionment Committee want to ensure it is more than a good faith effort.
“I think there is a real risk of slow-walking an important issue into oblivion,” Commissioner Joe Wise said.
“What I don’t want to see is a year from now, we’re still working on it.”
Commissioner Joe Grandy, who was elected chair during the Jan. 15 meeting, agreed.
“If we’re changing county government, we need to give it the number of hours needed,” he said.
“It needs to be done thoughtfully, but in the shortest amount of time necessary.”
Additional officers chosen last week were Commissioners Mark Larkey as vice chair and Skip Oldham as secretary.
Commission Chair Greg Matherly said interim County Attorney Tom Seeley has not completed his research to confirm whether the county could legally reapportion mid-cycle.
Matherly led the 2012 reapportionment and redistricting process for Washington County.
Federal and state law require counties to conduct the process every 10 years to ensure equal populations among the various districts.
Reapportionment refers to the number and distribution of the county legislative body within the districts.
The minimum number of commissioners per county is nine, yet Washington County voted to remain at the maximum 25. Only three commissioners can serve per district.
An attorney general opinion included in the 2011 edition of the “Guide to Local Redistricting in Tennessee” indicates a county commission “can reapportion more than once every 10 years only when a district plan does not meet equal population standards.
“This means that once a new, substantially equal in population district plan based on 2010 census totals is approved, the county commission does not have the authority to change it or create a new one.”
Committee members agreed they need to wait for a final go-ahead from Seeley, but discussed in general what they would hope to accomplish.
“I would like to see more than one option presented to the full commission,” Larkey said, referring to proposed plans for changes. “We only had one choice last time.”
Commissioner Lee Chase suggested reviewing the number of commissioners in other state counties would be helpful.
“I hope we can all agree going forward there is no sacred cow,” Matherly said.
“There can’t be if we’re going to make changes, and there has not been a willingness in prior committees.
“You may not be able to keep a certain voter in your district.”
The committee planned to meet again Wednesday, Jan. 28, but agreed Seeley could offer his comments to the full commission at its monthly meeting two days earlier if available.
Potential reapportionment changes approved by the full commission would go into effect with the 2018 election.