Judge-Executive Curtis Dame approved the motion to have County Clerk Carol Eaton look for assistance in regards to census redistricting and reapportionment at the Oct. 17 fiscal court meeting.

“Redistricting is the state level. They are going to redistrict our Kentucky senate and representative lines.” Eaton said. “Reapportionment is the county level. That will entail that the fiscal court will appoint three commissioners … over 21 (years old); they have to be competent, and they have to be from three different districts.”

The appointment of the three commissioners will take place in May 2022, after a year’s delay due to COVID, where the county will set the magisterial lines for Northwest District, Northeast District, Southeast District, and Southwest District.

The redistricting and reapportionment process takes place every 10 years due to the changes in the population.

According to the latest U.S. Census Report, 9,152 people resided in the county as of 2020, a decrease of 379 people, or 4%, since 2010.

However, Dame said this is a trend that has been ongoing.

“We’ve had declines since the mid ‘80s,” Dame said. “But a lot of the changes that we will see happen will happen in our cities, from what I can see.”

Dame said, per Eaton’s recommendation, that the county has approved a contract with Green River Area Development District (GRADD) to use GRADD staff and utilize geographic information systems and geospatial mapping software to make sure that this is the most accurate process that the county has done.

Fiscal Court has budgeted about $10,000 to fund the process to make it be a “seamless and, hopefully, a smooth transition” for the clerk’s office.

The process has come a long way, whereas Dame and Eaton said that the process in 2001 required the county to physically count every house and entity before advancements in technology.

“This process will be a lot more efficient,” Dame said. “The beauty of having this resource available is that we know it’s going to be done right.”

The main objective for redistricting and reapportionment is to make sure all districts are one in the same.

“We have to represent one person for one vote,” Eaton said. “We can’t have one magisterial district that has 1,000 people and then one (district) that has 500, because the vote wouldn’t be equal.”

“It tries to give equal representation on the court because we have four magistrates,” Dame said.

According to KRS 67.045, in counties where members of the county fiscal court are nominated or elected by districts, the boundaries of those districts shall be drawn so that the districts are compact, contiguous (share a common border not interrupted by other divisions of land or water), and the population of each district must be nearly equal as is reasonably possible, which is done by dividing the total county population by the number of districts in the county.

With the county’s current population and having four districts, Eaton said that the balanced population would be 2,288 +/- 5%.

“If we haven’t changed 5% in each district, then we wouldn’t have to change anything,” Eaton said.

Dame said that the reapportionment is not about the physical size of a district.

“If you look at the current map that we have, sometimes the geographical size of an area isn’t the same as the same amount of people that live there,” Dame said. “The Southeast District is smaller than the Southwest District because you have a lot of land where nobody lives. It’s not necessarily the size geographically …, it’s based on the amount of people in a certain area.”

Though redistricting and reapportionment has not shown to change much the last two times, Dame and Eaton cannot fully predict if that will be the case in this situation.

“Until GRADD takes all of our data and puts it in and maps it out for us, then we (will) know where the population changes are,” Eaton said.

If the final conclusion draws that the districts are not equal, Eaton said it’s simpler than before through the new software and permanent markers in the county.

“With what GRADD provides us with — on the computer, we can move the lines and it will automatically tell you how many people you’ve moved, the percentage. ...It makes it a whole lot easier,” Eaton said. “You have to use permanent lines (such) as a river or a road.”

Dame mentioned there could be some surprises, which could help the county in the long run.

“What could be interesting … is if there is an area that had an influx of people but other areas might have lost more,” Dame said. “Not only will it be good to make sure that the magisterial districts are equal in population, but also to show us areas of the county that are seeing a loss or a gain. We will gain some pretty … reliable information on where people are living, which can help us … reevaluate where we need to make investments on infrastructure and we can overlay those maps with broadband internet and water. I know it’s not part of this process, but to be able to pinpoint with maps where everybody is at is very helpful because it allows us to make educational and systematic decisions on where … we go from here.”

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