Census: Major shift among county political districts

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- The latest census figures released show that there was a large shift of people among the county's political districts -- a fact that will likely complicate upcoming redistricting discussions.

According to the latest figures provided by the county, District 1, which is currently represented by Commissioner Lamar Hudgins, grew at the fastest pace of any commission districts, posting an increase in population of more than 23 percent. That district now has 19,437 people.

Commissioner Ewell Lyle's District 4 was the only other district to post a population gain, topping out at 9.8 percent growth. That district now is home to 17,311 people.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Commissioner Jack Stone's District 6 shrank by the most -- 10.2 percent -- to just over 14,139 people, now the least populated County Commission district. That population decline led Commissioner Gloria Gaines' District 5, which contracted 8.8 percent to 14,361 people. District 3, now represented by Commissioner Muarleen Edwards, shrank 7.62 percent to 14,560 people, and Commissioner John Hayes' District 2 dropped by 6.37 percent to 14,757 people.

The change in population means that commissioners and the General Assembly will have a more complex task of drawing district lines that fairly represent the people of Dougherty County.

The numbers can be confusing because earlier census numbers showed that the county as a whole shrank in population by roughly 1,500 people over the 10-year period. The data revealed Monday was merely an analysis of population trends among the county's six political districts.

In redrawing political lines, elected officials must take into consideration the number of people in each district, which is often referred to as the doctrine of "one person, one vote." The districts also must be drawn in a way that does not discriminate, Dougherty County Attorney Spencer Lee said.

The process of redistricting is not a responsibility of the county. The county, however, can and has traditionally submitted a redistricting plan following each census for approval by the General Assembly. The U.S. Justice Department must also endorse redrawn political districts.

The population shifts, according to Lee, will have to be accounted for as the new district lines are drawn so that each district has nearly the same number of people as the others.

While state legislators will likely reconvene in some form or another later this year to take up the issue of redistricting, Lee said Monday that he doesn't believe that the commission district lines will be drawn before the 2012 general election.