Bibb County school board approves new voting district map

acastillo@macon.comJanuary 10, 2012 

After a 90-minute mapping session and no public input, the Bibb County school board approved a new voting district map Monday night.

District maps are redrawn every 10 years after new U.S. Census Bureau data is released to reflect population trends, said Nick Kouloungis, a senior government services specialist with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

The process is meant to equalize the population in each district, he told the board and about a dozen people who attended a public hearing and board meeting on the matter.

Creating voting maps is a separate matter from school zone maps that determine where Bibb County students attend school.

The hearing drew some like Alan Thiese, a resident of District 6 in north Bibb County who previously ran for a school board seat, who was not affected by the redrawn boundaries.

“I just wanted to see what was going on, to see the level of public concern,” he said.

Bibb County had 155,547 residents in 2010, up 1,660 from a decade before.

Downtown Macon’s District 2 lost about 2,500 people from 2000 to 2010, according to Kouloungis, while District 4 in west Bibb County gained 3,500 people in the same time span.

District 1, which covers east Bibb County, also lost some population, while Districts 3, 5 and 6 gained population to varying degrees.

Late last year, school board members worked with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, using the commission’s mapping software to redraw the school board’s voting districts.

The December meeting to develop the maps took about an hour and a half, and both Kouloungis and board members noted that the process went more smoothly than it had in the past.

“The process was very collaborative,” board member Susan Middleton said.

Each of the six school board districts had to have 25,925 people, or as close as possible to that number.

While population is the primary factor in creating voting districts, demographic data such as race or age, as well as the home address of a board member, also may be considered in the process.

While demographics such as race are a secondary consideration in the process, they can still have an impact on who takes office, for example, said Marie Harris, a resident of east Bibb’s District 1 and a regular at school board meetings.

“It does make a difference,” she said.

Following the board’s approval, the maps still need approval from the state Legislature and the U.S. Department of Justice in order for the new boundaries to go into effect.

They are expected to be approved in time for school board elections this year. All board seats, with the exception of those held by Wanda West and Lynn Farmer, are up for election this year.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.

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