Memphis City Council redraws districts
Memphis City Hall (Photo: City of Memphis Community Affairs page, Facebook)
The Memphis City Council approved new district lines on Tuesday while noting that District 4 may see further changes after the special election on the Nov. 8 ballot.
After being elected in the Aug. 4 election to serve as the new Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk, city council chairwoman Jamita Swearengen resigned on Aug. 9, triggering a special election race for a new clerk. In the meantime, the council will appoint a member to fill the vacancy in District 4 to serve for the two months before the elections. The appointment will be be made at a special council meeting on September 1.
On the Nov. 8 ballot, four contenders are competing for the District 4 vacancy and will serve the remainder of Swearengen’s four-year term, or a little more than a year. The current candidates are LaTonia Blankenship, a family specialist at Memphis-Shelby County Schools; Barry Ford, a Shelby County business systems analyst; Jana Swearengen, Jamita Swearengen’s sister, and DeWayne Jackson. No information was available on Johnson.
During city council committee meetings earlier Thursday, council attorney Allan Wade presented district maps that primarily reflect population shifts according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Due to population shifts, two districts were not in compliance with federal law, which required districts of 90,443 people. Within the council districts, 26 precincts were split due to the election commission’s overhaul of precincts earlier this year and required fixing.
“For example, District 4-7 is split between districts two and five, meaning they have one polling place but the people in that precinct that vote, they’ll get a card that says you can vote for Worth Morgan or they’ll get a card saying that you can vote for Frank Colvett (Jr.), and it’s confusing,” said Wade.
Some of the changes made were to shift two precincts from District 3 to District 4. Previously Councilmember Patrice Robinson, who represents District 3, expressed interest in reducing the size of her district, which is the largest.
In total, six districts were amended to reflect population shifts, and all but one councilmember approved the new changes.
Councilmember Michalyn Easter-Thomas, who is serving her first term, voted against the new district map after expressing concerns about changes to her area, District 7. As the lowest populated section, District 7 experienced significant changes. Earlier this year she requested for a public hearing on redistricting held by the committee.
“I think it is fairly harmless to most of you,” he said, adding that District 7 is landlocked between Districts 1,5 and 6.
The new redistricting maps will now need to be sent to the Shelby County Election Commission.
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