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Officials hold hearing on redistricting

Albany Assistant City Manager Wes Smith goes over one of the proposed district maps at a public hearing at Albany State University Thursday. There are currently two proposed maps to reflect population changes in city districts following the 2010 census. A final decision on which changes to adopt will be made early next year.

Albany Assistant City Manager Wes Smith goes over one of the proposed district maps at a public hearing at Albany State University Thursday. There are currently two proposed maps to reflect population changes in city districts following the 2010 census. A final decision on which changes to adopt will be made early next year.

ALBANY, Ga. — In an effort to obtain as much public input as possible, city of Albany officials held a hearing on the redistricting process Thursday.

Assistant City Manager Wes Smith and City Attorney Nathan Davis brought the proposed changes to the city’s district map to Orene Hall at Albany State University.

“There is nothing official,” said Smith at the hearing. “We are in discussion at this point. We want to get as close to (the ideal district number) as possible.”

The meeting had a low attendance, with former Albany-Dougherty National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter head William Wright the only member of the public to attend the 10 a.m. meeting.

During public meetings held to discuss Dougherty County Commission redistricting, Wright repeatedly expressed concern that the proposed map did little to make the districts fair to black voters.

The 2010 census numbers indicate that there was a population shift within a few of the City Commission districts, compelling officials to undertake the process of redrawing the ward map.

This process involves bringing all six districts to within 5 percent of the ideal population of 12,906. Two working maps have been prepared by Linda Meggers, the former head of redistricting for the Georgia General Assembly.

In order to stay within the 5 percent deviation, Wards 2, 3 and 5 will likely be impacted the most. Ward 2 lost 1,887 people, according to census numbers, Ward 3 lost 1,077 people and Ward 5 gained 2,640 people.

Wards 1 and 6 are not likely to change, while Ward 4 will likely change some to reflect a gain of 640 people.

Prior to Thursday’s public hearing, there was another one held on Sept. 27 at the downtown Government Center. Officials are expected to revise the working maps soon to incorporate comments from the public and from the City Commission. In January, the commission plans to review and discuss the new map.

There will be a public hearing on the new map in February, followed by a final revision of the map for commission consideration. There may be another public hearing before the commission’s vote in March.

After the vote, the map will be submitted to the Department of Justice.