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Redistricting seeks to ensure equal representation for all

According to federal and state laws, every ten years counties across the nation are required to redistrict and reapportion their voting districts based on the United States Census findings. The task of the Johnson County 2011 Redistricting Committee was to submit a proposal that would ensure equal representation for all its residents.
The initial redistricting process began with the appointment of a 2011 Redistricting Committee for Johnson County. These members include: Commissioners Bill Adams, John Brookshire and Freddie Phipps, Johnson County 911 Director Eugene Campbell, Tax Assessor Matthew Lewis, Mayor Larry Potter, Administrator of Elections Mike Long as well as Deputy Administrator of Elections, Cheri Lipford, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Reese and retired Administrator of Elections, Darlene Atwood.
Their assignment was to present a proposal to be approved by the Johnson County commissioners prior to its being sent to the Tennessee state government in Nashville. According to Tennessee state law, a ten percent over or under variance is permissible for each district. In order to combine districts, it is mandatory that the boundary lines touch. “There has to be equal representation for everybody,” said Long. The recommendation presented to the commissioners would provide for ten voting precincts and seven districts. It was passed with all commissioners in favor with the exception of John Brookshire and Jerry Gentry. The Office of Local Government Redistricting Plan in Nashville approved Johnson County’s proposal.

The county election commission, comprised of Mike Pleasant, Charles McQueen, Eric Taylor, Terry Thompson and Mike Fritts, made the decision to close the voting precincts at Mountain City Elementary and the Sutherland community located near Back Bone Rock. Those who previously voted at Mountain City Elementary will now vote at the high school, and the Sutherland residents will now cast their ballots with Shady Valley residents.

According to the results of the census, Shady Valley saw a decrease of 207 residents, as well as the Laurel Bloomery community with a loss of 192 . Although the great majority of the 1,548 prisoners at Northeast Correctional Complex cannot vote, they are included in the census results and are taken into consideration when redistricting. According to Long, four of the inmates fell into a window of opportunity where they can legally vote this year. Not only will the redistricting changes decrease the expenses to operate the voting precincts, but it will also save on the wear and tear of the electronic voting machines. According to Long, each of these units cost approximately $3,500. “These changes will save 10 to 12 workers,” said Long, “We will try to utilize the workers at other districts, if needed.”

In the midst of the voting district recommendations, 911 was in the process of making road and address changes. “We’ve had a lot of confusion,” Long said. Both Long and Lipford stressed the need for Johnson Countians to contact the election board to notify them of any change in their address. These residents will receive a new voting card.

This year, voters will have the opportunity to cast their ballots in three elections. The Presidential Preference Primary is scheduled for March 6. At this election, voters will indicate if their preference is for a Republican or Democratic ticket as the ballots are different for each of the parties. If a person has declared themselves a Republican but wishes to vote on the Democratic ticket, or vice versa, they may do so. On August 2nd, there will be a general and primary election. Elections for the local tax assessor and two school board positions will be held at this time. Finally, the Presidential Election will be held on November 6th.

There are alternatives to voting at your assigned precinct. If you are disabled or over the age of 65, an absentee ballot application can be sent to your home address. The election commission will offer early voting beginning on February 15th through February 28th. The office will be open on Mondays from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on Saturdays. According to Long, there will be 90 hours of early voting time to allow residents to cast their preference for each of the primaries and general elections.

Tennessee now requires a government-issued photo identification card in order to cast their ballot with the exception of absentee voting, such as Tennessee driver’s license, United States passport, Department of Safety photo identification, photo identification issued by the federal or state government, a United States military ID or a gun permit with your photo. Contact the Election Commission should you have any questions at 727-8592.