MILLEDGEVILLE — New census numbers legally require the City of Milledgeville to alter its six voting districts based on new population shifts. City Council began the process in January, opening a 30-day window to come up with sufficiently altered district blocks.
Monday’s work session reviewed Council members’ diligence adjusting the numbers toward a suggested deviation range. After a few more tweaks Council agreed on a map version for public hearing.
Two public hearings must occur before the redistricting blueprint is voted on and sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for approval.
Middle Georgia Regional Commission (MGRC) representative Nick Kouloungis used population block software to assist the city.
The MGRC goal for Milledgeville is a collective district deviation range of 10 percent. The range started more than 70 percent using the 2010 census numbers minus the correctional population.
Except District 6, the other five districts, minus institutionalized and correctional populations, were all at least 25 percent above or below the optimal target population, according to the MGRC.
The current version has the six districts falling at an 8.81 percent deviation range from the target population of 2,748 per district. Districts 1, 3 and 5 are primarily minority under the current setup.
Milledgeville traditionally maintains three primarily minority districts.
Though not official yet, Councilwoman Denese Shinholster, District 3, said the map was agreeable for Council.
“I think everyone knew the new census had shifted the figures around some. We all worked together to get it done,” Shinholster said. “It was a smooth process, and I think everyone is pleased. We stuck with the plan and the deviation as the basis for what we needed to do.”
Phillip Joiner, District 4, and Dr. Collinda Lee, District 1, were both near 1,000 people over the ideal deviation before the process began. They had no issues with the give and take.
Lee enjoyed her first redistricting experience and thinks Council has come to a consensus.
“As a whole, we did well. We got a lot accomplished,” Lee said.
The DOJ must approve any redistricted map proposal using the one person, one vote rule and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a rubric.
Joiner applauded his fellow Council members for making good compromises to get every district as equal as possible.
“There were changes that had to be made based on what DOJ requires. We had to make some sweeping changes to be compliant with the law,” Joiner said. “It’s like a big puzzle. Six of us put it together.”
Council will bring the map to a public hearing Friday and vote for final passage of the new ordinance in the next regular Council meeting.
Once submitted, the Justice Department has 60 days to comment and review the districts. Having any changes settled long before the next election is important, so the local board of registrars has ample opportunity to realign the districts and place people in the proper voter roles.
“We tried to keep it as minimal as possible, so it would be less work for the registrars’ office,” Shinholster said.
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