Originally created 10/17/01

Officials aim to expedite line drawing



A plan to redraw the city's commission and Board of Education districts should be ready to go by the first week of the 2002 General Assembly session, a subcommittee of Augusta Commissioners said Tuesday.

Using state software on city computers, local officials expect to be able to create and move district lines more easily than ever - with the click of a mouse. Earlier redistricting efforts were largely hand-drawn plans that required regular trips to Atlanta for technical assistance.

"The sooner it can go to the delegation, the sooner it can be made into law and sent to the Justice Department for approval," Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey told members of the commission's Redistricting Subcommittee.

To expedite the redistricting process, commissioners plan to meet with school board members and representatives from the local legislative delegation early next month. At that meeting, board of elections officials will discuss how the city's population and racial makeup - based on 2000 U.S. census figures - relate to local political districts.

The most recent numbers will be used to redraw political lines so that every resident has equal political representation on local boards. Commissioners say it's vital that officials work together so that school board districts mirror commission districts, decreasing voter confusion and increasing the likelihood the maps will be approved.

Although school board lines must be drawn by the legislative delegation, Augusta commissioners have "home rule" authority, which allows them to draw their own political lines and submit them directly to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval.

"Whatever ends up being drawn, they need to look like each other," Augusta Commissioner Willie Mays said. "Less confusion, less division."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215

What's next: Officials will meet next month to begin redrawing local voting districts before submitting them to the General Assembly in January and later to the U.S. Justice Department.