Charter Commission Tackles Districting



The Metropolitan Government Charter Commission meets Monday to decide how many legislative districts there should be and how they should be drawn.

The most likely outcome appears to be a proposal for 13 single-member districts and four 3-member districts, for a total of 25 representatives in a metropolitan government. An alternative plan would have 13 single-member districts and four super districts with one member each for a total of 17 representatives.

The commission meets at 4 p.m. Monday in the Shelby County government building. Commissioners are nearing the end of their work and plan to have a final document on August 10th. The referendum is in November.

The legislative districting job is complicated. There are 236 precincts and more than 900,000 people in Shelby County. The goal is "to create a metropolitan council that provides solid representation for all citizens without being unwieldy."

There are a couple of guiding principles and one big timing problem.

The timing problem is the 2010 Census. It won't be available until 2011, so commissioners are trying to make a best guess based on 2008 Census estimates and the 2000 Census. The city of Memphis has an increasing number of black residents (63 percent in 2008) and a declining number of white residents (32 percent in 2008). So does Shelby County, where the 2008 Census estimates were 51 percent black and 43 percent white.

The guiding principles are roughly equal population in each district, recognition of "communities of like interest" relative to physical, social, and economic issues, and racial representation in line with the federal Voting Rights Act.

In the current city and county government structure, there are 13 members on the Memphis City Council and 13 on the Shelby County Commission.

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