Lee County prepares for action on redistricting map

LEESBURG, Ga. -- The Lee County Commission held a public "non-hearing" on a proposed county redistricting map at the T. Page Tharp Governmental Building Tuesday afternoon.

Nothing was heard because no citizen showed up to see how the county plans to realign its five commission and school board districts for the next 10 years.

"This is the same map that was presented to you at your meeting last week," elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson told commissioners.

"The only change is to one small census block. The map has clean lines, and the only possible problem area I see is in the southwestern part of the county where there could possibly be some voter confusion for the first couple of elections if the people who live there don't pay attention.

"Voter education will be the key, and we plan to work hard in our office to educate voters."

Johnson said the "ideal district" in the county, whose population came in at 28,298 in the 2010 census, would include 5,659 citizens.

The map presented to the commission and to the county's school board at a similar meeting Monday night comes close in all five districts.

District 1 on the proposed map would have a population of 5,743, District 2 5,555, District 3 5,716, District 4 5,599 and District 5 5,685.

"The Justice Department (which must OK the county's map once it is approved by the state Legislature) in the past asked that districts be within plus or minus 5 percent of the ideal district, but now they want it as close to 0 as possible," Johnson said. "You're under 2 percent in all five of your districts."

County Administrator Tony Massey said that, barring unforeseen problems, "Map No. 4" will be placed on the agenda of the commission's July 26 meeting for "formal action."

"If the commission approves the map," he said, "it will go to the Legislature in Atlanta, which has called a special session just to consider redistricting. If the state approves the map, it will be reviewed by the federal Department of Justice."

County Commissioner Betty Johnson, who was part of the committee that worked on the map, said it is a good option to meet the population trends in the county.

"I don't think we had any other choice with the population growth in the southern portion of the county," she said. "(Fellow commissioner) Dennis (Roland) and I just keep coming south."

County Clerk Christi Dockery said that even though there was no input from citizens at Monday's and Tuesday's public hearings, there has been a good deal of interest in the map.

"People have called asking specific questions," she said. "And people have come into our lobby to look at the map. I think the people of the county are interested."

Copies of the proposed map are on display at the commission's office, at the county courthouse, at the elections office, at the Leesburg, Smithville and Redbone library branches and at the board of education building.