ERWIN — Members of the Unicoi County Redistricting Committee obviously liked what they saw.
The committee, in what was its first and possibly last meeting this year, unanimously approved Wednesday the proposed plan to redraw the county’s district lines in order to equalize population totals in each of Unicoi County’s three districts.
The redistricting process, which involves the moving of population blocks determined by the Census Bureau, is state-mandated and required to be completed every 10 years in conjunction with the national census. Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said the county’s population increased by around 500 since the last census.
“Basically what we have to do is shuffle people from (district) two into one and then shuffle people from (district) three into two,” Unicoi County Administrator of Elections Sarah Bailey said to others on the committee. “Just the physical way our county’s laid out, it’s long and thin, so there’s only so much you can do. It’s hard to move people from three into one without it getting really difficult.”
Under the plan approved by the committee, populations associated with the Whispering Meadows apartment complex and a nearby mobile home park would be moved from the third district to its second. Populations within the Railroad Street area, also located in the third district, would be moved into the second district. Also, populations in the McInturff Springs and Pippin Hollow areas would move from the third to the second district. The total population affected under these moves, according to figures presented Wednesday, is 491.
Only one change involved a move from the first district. This was moving the population of 70 in the North Indian Creek area into the county’s second district.
Moves from the second district to its first under the plan are the Horton Ridge, Spar Mill, Upper Robertson and Jones Road areas, as well as portions of South Elm Avenue, South Main Avenue and Vinton Avenue south of Academy Street. Also included is moving the Morris Road and Jewell Branch areas, and the total population affected from second to first district moves is around 430.
A population deviation of 10 percent or less across county districts is required by the state and, prior to the redistricting plan, Bailey said the county was looking at a deviation of around 19 percent. Under the new plan, the county’s population deviation would be 3.5 percent.
“I really don’t know that we could get a whole lot better than that without causing some problems,” Bailey said.
Under the approved plan, Unicoi County Commissioner Mickey Hatcher, who currently represents the county’s third district, would be moved to the second district and would have to run in the second district if he seeks election in the future. County Attorney Doug Shults said this would have no impact on Hatcher’s current term.
Now that the county’s redistricting plan has the committee’s approval, it will be presented to the Unicoi County Commission for its ratification. If the commission signs off on the plan, it will then be sent to the state for its approval.
Assuming the state approves the plan, Bailey said notification will be sent by the Unicoi County Elections Commission to those affected by redistricting well in advance of the county’s next election March 6.