Commission Fails to Reach Redistricting Consensus

By Bill Dries

Shelby County Commissioners didn’t have nine votes among them to give final approval Friday, Dec. 9, to any redistricting plan.

But the political deadlock has given new life to the option of reshaping the 13-member legislative body into a set of single-member districts.

Commissioner Steve Mulroy has been the dominant backer of 13 single-member districts from the beginning of the once-a-decade process to adjust for population shifts recorded in the U.S. Census.

“This might be something that we can coalesce around and get a consensus on,” Mulroy said after the Friday special session. “I am pleasantly surprised that the fallback plan now seems to be a 13-member, single-district plan.”

Commission members continued to talk at Friday’s special meeting for 10 minutes after they adjourned the meeting and then, while adjourned, decided to instead recess the special meeting-past and resume it Wednesday, Dec. 14, at noon.

The questionable parliamentary procedure highlights the tight timeframe the commission faces.

The commissioners disagree on how to redraw district lines to take into account the 2010 U.S. census. But the commissioners agree they need to have a plan in place before the Christmas holidays. If they don’t and there are no district lines by the new year, they’ve been advised by Shelby County attorney Kelly Rayne they risk a Chancery Court lawsuit and a chancellor controlling how district lines are set.

The commission tried once Friday to approve a seven-district plan that had passed on two previous readings. But final passage requires a two-thirds majority – or nine votes – instead of the simple seven-vote majority on first and second readings. The plan failed on a 4-7 vote in which several commissioners favoring the plan voted no in order to move for reconsideration. They moved for reconsideration immediately.

Reconsideration will be the first order of business at Wednesday’s session.

But the commission has one shot at reconsidering the plan under parliamentary rules. The commission’s rules don’t say what happens if an item fails on reconsideration once, which means they consult “Robert’s Rules of Order.” There can only be one reconsideration vote before an item is considered rejected and another proposal must be considered, according to the set of widely used parliamentary rules.

There weren’t nine votes for seven districts because of the emergence of a new alternate plan to leave the commission at five districts and merely tweak the existing district lines. That alternate didn’t have seven votes to pass earlier this week, but it garnered enough votes to scotch a nine-vote majority for the seven-district plan.