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One redraw of district lines gets a first-vote OK from Council

Memphis City Council members Tuesday (May 2) passed the first of three votes on a proposed set of new district boundaries before the upcoming Oct. 5 city elections.

Delayed for weeks, the consent agenda item passed on an 8-0-2 vote. It has the backing of Council Chairman Martavius Jones.

However, a vote on a competing set of proposed boundaries was rescheduled to May 15 after it failed on a same-night-minutes vote during the body’s executive session.

“I think we’re going to have a really long discussion if we continue to go this route,” said Vice Chair JB Smiley Jr.

“We should be taking a vote on whether to send this to the full council, so we can consider both ordinances together. Or, whether it should be to allow this one (alternative proposed boundaries) to come…two weeks after?” 

After two objections, the latter option prevailed.

During the interim, council members will have another round of discussions about the pair of competing boundary proposals. 

The council must approve the proposed new district lines on three readings for them to become law. 

The set of proposed lines that passed its first vote, drawn with the help of an ad hoc mapping subcommittee, would create a district for Cordova from what is currently East Memphis District 2. 

It also would redraw District 1 mainly within Raleigh, shifting it away from Cordova. All the greater Downtown area, meanwhile, would join District 7. It is currently cleaved with District 6.

The ad hoc group was led by council member Michalyn Easter-Thomas. In addition to other council members, it included a resident from each district. Community members also provided input. It was the first time residents gave input on district lines.

The other option, sponsored by council member Chase Carlisle, would move one precinct from the northeast corner of District 5 to District 2, which would remain in East Memphis. It was drawn up by council attorney Allan Wade.

A request by council member Jeff Warren for a vote on same-night minutes was rejected after two objections. It would have allowed a first vote during the full meeting later in the day. 

If the vote occurred on one or both ordinances’ first readings, a third and final reading would have been scheduled for June 13.

“One of the things we’re looking at is if we are going to change this in time for the next election…if that’s what’s going to happen.

“If it goes down (to the full council) for first reading, we’ll have an opportunity to vote on it at the same time we vote on the other. We’ll be able to discuss them together,” said Warren. 

“I’m not sure it makes much sense to delay it for another two weeks because it’s going to be off two weeks. That’s going to make it a little bit harder to initiate this. The election commission can do this. They can’t do a wholesale change for the next election.”

On April 5th, Chairman Jones halted a vote, following a letter from the Shelby County Election Commission denying his request for an extension on the April 14 deadline for approval. 

Another vote, scheduled for April 11, also failed to happen. During the meeting, members asked for more information on the new lines.

Despite blowing the Election Commission’s deadline, Wade has assured members that either map could withstand a legal challenge.

 

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