The U.S. Census Bureau announced Thursday it will send final statistics to Tennessee next week.
The Metro Planning Department needs the numbers to finalize its redistricting of the 35 Metro Council districts and nine school board districts within Davidson County.
Rick Bernhardt, the department’s executive director, said his team has begun to analyze available data to understand the trends in population movement. Using estimates provided by the Federal government’s “American Community Survey,” 2005-2009 population estimates indicate considerable growth in southeastern and southwestern Davidson County, especially when compared with significantly less population growth in the county’s near northern and central sections, he said.
Federal redistricting requirements stipulate that all council districts be roughly equal in population, with adjustments made after each national 10-year census.
“If the official data is consistent with the estimates, it is clear that district lines will definitely change," Bernhardt said in a release. “We don't yet have the official numbers we need to do the actual redistricting, but the 2005-2009 estimates give us a general idea of what to expect."
While Bernhardt said Metro planners will try to change district boundaries as minimally as possible, some of the districts that have shown the most growth will get a little smaller, and some of the districts that have lost residents will expand their boundaries to pick up additional population.
"We know that the county's overall population has grown by more than 10 percent, so each district will have a higher ideal population count of as much as 1,500 people than it did last time the lines were drawn,” he said. “ The challenge is to draw 35 districts with a roughly equal number of residents in each to comply with all laws, and to include public comments and suggestions in the process."
As such, the planning department is preparing a website that will provide Metro residents an opportunity to see each day's progress as redistricting continues and to make comments. That site will feature side-by-side maps of current and proposed districts and a link for emailed comments, which will both be passed on to planners and posted on the site for public review.
Every 20 years, the release of decennial Census data coincides with a Metro election. As such, the planning department, its commission and the Metro Council (which must approve redrawn lines) will fast-track the process this spring. The election is Aug. 4.
Local attorney George Barrett, who specializes in constitutional law and had threatened a lawsuit had the redistricting not been done before Aug. 4 — if not before the May 19 deadline to finalize a candidacy — said he is pleased with the progress being made.
"I am very pleased that the planning department and council can now move forward on vindication of the Constitutional principal of 'One Person One Vote,' Barrett said. “A great deal of the credit for the Census Bureau response goes to Congressman Jim Cooper and his staff, who have work diligently to get this done."