KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Redistricting decides which parts of the community fall into which districts for representation. It’s a lesser-known, but powerful part of the political process.
In a letter sent to Knox County Commissioner Kyle Ward Sunday night, the President of the Knoxville branch of the NAACP talked about how some proposed changes could dilute minority voices.
“Knox County as a whole benefits from diverse representation,” said Reverend Sam Brown.
Brown said the redistricting option to move the Sequoyah Hills Neighborhood Precinct into District 1 concerned him. “That would disproportionately affect the concentration of African Americans in District 1,” said Brown.
He fears this move would diminish the voice of black voters in Knoxville. He even said it could put the county in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He said he and others are ready to act if it comes to it. “The local branch and many of our partners here very prepared, very much prepared, to seek our options in federal court,” he said.
Brown said he has presented other options to the Knox County Redistricting Committee, like the possibility of moving the Norwood Precinct instead since it has a larger minority presence with 33%. “That would be a much better choice to maintain the integrity of the diverse representation in District 1 and ensure that those voters in District 1 would still have that strong solidified voice,” Brown said.
County Commissioner Kyle Ward, whom the NAACP’s letter was addressed to, responded to WATE 6 On Your Side for comment.
“I appreciate the NAACP’s letter and will give it thoughtful consideration. it is the top priority of the redistricting committee to run an open and legal process. we are following the law to the letter, and have had over seven events with opportunities for public input, with little participation. this week, the committee will suggest one of four plans, all of which meet the legal requirements, for adoption by county commission.”
The Knox County Redistricting Committee will meet to vote on the proposed redistricting maps Wednesday. From there, plans will move to the Knox County Commission for final approval.
Reverend Brown said no matter what is decided, he is planning a virtual community town hall for Thursday at 6:00 p.m. He said the log-in information will be posted to the Knoxville NAACP’s Facebook page.