City gets nod from DOJ on redistricting

November 12, 2012 10:00:57 AM

Jeff Clark - [email protected]


Chris Watson, of the Bridge and Watson consulting firm, received a letter from the Department of Justice on Nov. 1 stating the Columbus council's plan for redistricting had been given pre-clearance approval. 


"This means the DOJ has approved the council's redistricting plan," Watson said. "There is still little bit of time left on their 60 days. The DOJ words it so that they can change their minds before the 60 days are up, but that is rare. This should be officially done before Thanksgiving." 


Census data from 2010 shows Ward 4 is the most under-populated ward, with a variance of negative 427 or negative 10 percent, down from 219 people in 2000. Ward 6 is the most heavily-populated, with a positive variance of 360 or 9.1 percent. The council plan, which was approved on a 4-2 vote, would cut the population variance among wards to 9.5 percent.  


The redistricting means there is no change in wards 1 and 2. In Ward 3, everything south of Hemlock Street and everything west of McCrary Street move into Ward 4. The Ward 6 area south of Waverly Road, and a block of Sixth Street North, would be taken into Ward 5.  


Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem and Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens opposed the council's plan and submitted a second plan to the DOJ. Both plans were sent to the DOJ on Sept. 21. Watson said the DOJ made no comment on the second plan as to why it might have been rejected in favor of the council's plan. 


"I still stand by my stance that the plan the council submitted could have been better," Karriem said Monday. "But, the DOJ approved the council's plan and we'll move on and get ready for the elections next year. The council's plan had a lot of packing in some wards. Some of the folks in these wards could have been distributed into other wards. It's 2012 -- you no longer have to pack wards to get elected. The reelection of President Obama proves this. I guess some folks just have a sense of comfort in having their wards stacked." 


Watson said the next phase of the redistricting will require the city to readjust its voter rolls and to send out notices alerting voters their wards and polling precincts might have changed.