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Posted: March 25, 2011 1:00 a.m.

Newton could undergo redistricting in 2012

One of the most direct effects of the 2010 Census data will be the redrawing of Newton County's five commission districts, likely in 2012, to ensure that each resident has equal representation.

Given that Newton County's population is at 100,000, each of the five commission district should ideally have 20,000 a piece. County Chairman Kathy Morgan said based on the county's estimates, District 4, which contains half of Covington, all of Oxford and small section of the county, is the smallest district and will grow the most in reapportionment.

She said District 1, the largest district, which covers the south and southeastern portions of the county, and District 5, which covers the eastern half of Covington and a large swath of the county, will both grow a little, while the two western districts, 2 and 3, are expected to shrink.

The idea is to meet the constitutional mandate: "one person, one vote." The new districts will be drawn after the 2010 Census data is studied and finalized.

According to a PowerPoint presentation by county attorney Jenny Carter, districts are supposed to be compact, contiguous and politically fair and preserve communities within a district. Redistricting is also supposed to protect incumbents and avoid placing two incumbents in one newly drawn district.

New districts cannot cause retrogression, which occurs if members of a minority are worse off than they were before redistricting. However, race is not supposed to be the sole motivating factor when creating a majority-minority district. District 4 is an example of a district where black residents are the majority.

In order for redistricting to occur, the Georgia General Assembly must approve legislation changing the districts. Then the U.S. Department of Justice must review the new districts.

Carter suggested that Newton County have its legislative delegation introduce legislation in 2012 session. If passed by the state and approved by the justice department, the new districts would go into effect during the 2012 election.

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