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For a month now the Shelby County Board of Education has tabled a decision on redistricting its voting precincts, but we just can’t seem to understand why.
According to Shelby CountY Clerk Sue Carole Perry the school board has not altered its voting districts since 1999.
To us, that seems like a really long time.
We understand that it is not mandatory, although there seems to have been some confusion on that front throughout the process.
But why would our school district not want to update its voting districts as the rest of our voting districts are done?
It certainly isn’t because of the number of people clambering to get on the ballot for the board – it’s remained largely unchanged and unchallenged over that time frame and longer.
In 2000 the county’s population, according to the U.S. Census, was a little more than 33,000.
Now, the U.S. Census 2013 Population Estimate puts Shelby County at more than 44,000, an increase of about 33 percent since 2000.
Two census cycles, which is the determining factor for redistricting at the county and state levels, have passed since the school board last reconfigured its voting lines.
The magisterial districts, of which there are seven in the county, must be within plus or minus 5 percent of each other.
We believe that seems like a logical goal for the school board as well.
It seems that with a 33 percent change in population – and with growth leaning heavily toward the cities of Shelbyville and Simpsonville – that it would be nearly impossible for these districts to fall within that 10 percent range now 15 years later.
The Kentucky Revised Statue [KRS 160.210] for election of board members states that the voting precincts be “as equal in population as is practicable.”
That doesn’t seem like too tall of a task.
Reworking voting districts is difficult, time consuming, thankless and sometimes confusing, but so is redistricting students for population and building changes. And that’s something the district has done several times over the last 15 years, including for elementary students going into the upcoming 2014-15 school year.
The board has stated that it would like to wait until after this year’s election to make changes.
Only two districts – 1, the western portion of the county, and 4, the northern portion – will be contested in this year’s election, as board member Eddie Mathis (district 4) has reportedly decided to step down and Doug Butler (district 1) had an unsuccessful run for magistrate and had previously stated that he was not likely to run again.
Already some grumbling has occurred from those that question the idea to not alter districts so predecessors can be better selected.
We don’t believe that to be true, but after 15 years of no action and then twice tabling a possible change we can understand why some constituents would question the lack of a decision.
But members have noted that some have already filed and expressed interest in running for seats, and changes could alter those districts up for re-election.
Perry, the county clerk, said leaving the districts alone shouldn’t be a problem for this election, but for the next it could become an issue.
However, we believe it is simply just the fair and right thing to do. Our representation should remain equal, giving the individual’s in the county a better opportunity to be heard by their representative.
So if we must wait until after this November’s election, we hope we’re not right back in the same place next July – pushing off another decision because we don’t want to alter districts after candidates have already filed.