Jun 11 2012

Redistricting, Precinct Consolidation, and All Before August?

Posted by Steve Ross in elections, Shelby County

I think its well past emergency time, but thanks for noticing.

Earlier today, the Shelby County Commission voted to delay a vote on a redistricting proposal that was up for 3rd and final consideration.

In my last post, I detailed some of the problems the Shelby County Election Commission is experiencing regarding new US House, State Senate and House, and Unified School Board districts. This morning they released an advisory about the issue.

Now that the County Commission, which the Election Commission blames for the delay, has decided to delay a vote, one has to wonder what will happen and how the voting public will navigate the mangled mess the State House and Senate left in their wake when they decided to redistrict based on Census blocks rather than existing precincts.

With just 53 days to the August election, there are several important issues on the ballot, including the candidates for the new Unified School Board. Time is short to get this information out to the public.

Precinct Consolidation

But there are other things on the Election Commission’s agenda that are likely to also play a role in voter confusion…precinct consolidation.

Currently, there are 236 precincts in Shelby County. That’s down from a high of 272 in 2006. There is a draft plan before the Commission to combine as many as 56 precincts, leaving just 180 precincts in the County. Under the plan, the average area covered by a precinct would go from 3.3 sq/mi to 4.4 sq/mi.

However, the plan has not been publicly released. I only know about it because I happened to see a map generated by the Election Commission.

As I noted in my last post, the minutes of the April meeting have still not been released (apparently they weren’t approved in May). What’s more, the agenda of the meeting to take place on Wednesday mentions nothing about precinct changes or any other alterations that would impact the August election.

Because of the lack of information, rumors have started to spread that the Election Commission intends to make these changes before the August election. That means 56 precincts of people could be voting in a new location, with little time for notification before election day.

Stop the Blame Storming

I’ll give the Election Commission one thing: Yes, the County Commission should have approved new districts for itself before now.

That fact is not and never has been in question.

However, the silence from the body regarding informing the public about the problems, and their lack of overall willingness to really talk about anything has shifted the focus from the failings of the County Commission, to the the Election Commission.

Add to that, the lack of disclosure, or even recent minutes of meetings, and you’ve got the recipe for rumblings about the bumblings of an appointed body that, for whatever reason, just can’t seem to get it together for the public good.

That doesn’t bode well for an institution charged with protecting the most important trust of our Republic…the voting franchise.

The Election Commission meets Wednesday. A quick search of local media outlets nets nothing of substance regarding the lack of minutes, or the bulk of the business of the Commission since April with the exception of the coverage of the ongoing voter purge and the reports of the lost history fiasco.

Wednesday could be a critical day for voting in Shelby Co. It’ll be interesting if anyone pays it any notice.