VOL. 130 | NO. 140 | Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Memphis Council Takes Up Redistricting Furor
By Bill Dries
Memphis City Council chairman Myron Lowery says no candidate in the October city elections should be affected by the council’s second redrawing of its district lines in four years.
But before the full council takes what is normally a routine vote Tuesday, July 21, he and other council members will talk about the redistricting controversy at a 1:30 p.m. committee session.
The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St., and votes then on the second of three readings on the redistricting ordinance. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, as well as get updates from the committee sessions earlier in the council day.
The change in district lines incorporates four precincts, which once were located outside the city limits until the recent annexations of south Cordova and Southwind.
The October city elections are the first since the annexations took effect.
The new district lines are to get a final vote in August, a week and a half after the Shelby County Election Commission sets the ballot for the Oct. 8 elections.
Four years ago, the council reset its district lines in the once-a-decade process that follows the once-a-decade U.S. Census. In 2011, with 12 of the 13 incumbent members seeking re-election, the council set new district lines two days before the filing deadline. Six candidates in four council races, none of them incumbents, found themselves drawn into different districts than the ones they had filed to run in.
Initially, Lowery thought the new 2015 district lines might move Rachel Knox, a candidate for City Council District 2, into another district.
But since then, it appears Knox’s precinct remains in District 2 although it has been given a different number and expanded by the consolidation of several other Cordova precincts with it.
The separate and unrelated consolidation of some election precincts by the election commission also was a factor in the initial confusion.
But Shelby County Election Commissioner Norma Lester says her body is not to blame.
“The annexation is old along with knowledge of election dates,” Lester wrote Friday, July 17, in an open letter to the council. “It is inconceivable that the council did not address redistricting months before petitions were slated to be pulled.”
Lester also denied that the election commission had a hand in the confusion.
“The election commission did not withhold any information or cause this delay in council action,” she wrote.
Lester advocates a requirement that any redistricting must be approved 90 days before candidates can begin pulling qualifying petitions.
Meanwhile, the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting – released Friday by the council office – does not include a vote on the final reading of an ordinance that would strengthen the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board. The final vote was delayed two weeks ago and slated then for a final vote Tuesday.
The ordinance was amended two weeks ago to remove subpoena power for the review board that investigates police misconduct complaints. The amendments also included taking out a provision that would allow the board to review material from police Internal Affairs before internal investigations are completed.
The delay was to give Memphis Police Department brass an opportunity to review the ordinance as amended. It is not clear if the council plans to vote on it Tuesday.