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Monday, February 13, 2012 - 1:00am

Local Redistricting Maps Drawn

State lawmakers are busy approving county and school board election district maps. It’s part of the once-a-decade redistricting effort that began last year. Legislators are trying to complete the process quickly so the maps will be ready by race qualifying time.

Local officials draw county commission and school board maps. And they’re following the same rules lawmakers used for state and congressional maps.

That means districts must be the same population size, plus or minus one person.

Under the Voting Rights Act, the federal government has to approve the maps after state lawmakers pass them. And that can take months.

Rep. Chuck Sims of Ambrose chairs the committee overseeing local redistricting. He says qualifying for local primaries begins in May. And that has him racing to finish the maps.

“We’ll have to know something by the time qualifying dates come in because you have to know what district you’re in," he said during an interview at the state Capitol. "And if you’re running in a certain district, you have to know, if you qualify in that district, whether you live in that district or not, which is a requirement for county commissioners and school members.”

Many communities have already completed their maps. But not all.

Athens-area lawmakers are at odds over maps from local officials that include so-called super-districts combining parts of two counties.

Sen. Frank Ginn is an Athens Republican.

“What happens with the super-districts, the way they are right now, and it wouldn’t necessarily happen but one of the things that it could do is disproportionately take away power from certain groups,” he said during an interview on the Senate floor.

Ginn says he supports the maps because he believes in local control, but not everyone in the delegation does and the vote must be unanimous.

The Republican-controlled legislature passed state and congressional maps last summer. The U.S. Department of Justice approved state House and Senate, and congressional maps at the end of December. Rep. Roger Lane, a Darien Republican who oversaw state and congressional redistricting, said it was the first time that's ever happened. In past years, the maps ended up in court.