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MPC Tapped to Provide Expertise in Local Redistricting Efforts

August 3, 2011 | More News

City County Building

Local legislators have asked the Metropolitan Planning Commission to help redefine City Council, County Commission, and Board of Education voting districts.

The process of legislative redistricting generally occurs every 10 years following the release of decennial population data by the U.S. Census Bureau. Often times, a county will experience population growth or decline during the years between censuses, and unequal distribution of population can occur, resulting in some legislative districts failing to meet one of the most fundamental democratic principles: equal representation, or "one person, one vote."

Redistricting is the mandated process that rebalances population between districts to restore equal distribution. Within Knox County, three legislative bodies with district-based representation are required to redistrict: Knox County Commission, Knoxville City Council, and Knox County Board of Education. MPC was asked by each to lend technical assistance in the redistricting process, which includes providing population data, geographic information systems support, and other technical services.

Knoxville City Council undertook its redistricting effort immediately upon receiving census data in March of this year. Since this is an election year for Knoxville Mayor and Council, it was necessary to have new voting district boundaries in place in time for the candidate filing deadline. MPC, working with City staff, was asked to devise a plan for Council's consideration. That plan was presented and evaluated in a series of Council workshops and meetings in April and May. Council completed its work with adoption of new of districts on May 17.

Knox County Commission and Knox County Board of Education formed a joint Redistricting Task Force in March to consider alignment of Commission and Board districts. The Task Force has met twice to work out the details of the process, which included presentations by MPC staff on the elements of a sound redistricting program. The Knox County Election Commission has set up a website, www.knoxredistricting.org, serving as an information clearinghouse for the Task Force and the public.

At its July 21st meeting, the Redistricting Task Force asked MPC to develop three redistricting plans under the guidance of Rick Emmett, the Task Force's representative for the City of Knoxville and a veteran of past redistricting efforts. The committee also called for submission of plans from the public and committee members themselves. Plans submitted by the public were due Thursday, July 28. Those plans and MPC's three preliminary plans will be posted on the redistricting website by Thursday, August 4.

The Task Force will meet to discuss submitted plans at its next meeting, Thursday, August 18 at 3:30 p.m. in the School Board's 1st Floor Conference Room in the Andrew Johnson Building, 912 S. Gay Street. The public is invited to attend and provide comment on plans and the redistricting process itself.

Posted 08-03-2011, written by Terry Gilhula