The Lee County Commission will discuss redistricting at a public hearing on Nov. 12.
The hearing is being scheduled in response to District 5 Commissioner John Andrew Harris’ concerns with how the districts had been redrawn. With the proposed new map, Harris said his minority population would drop from 54 percent to 52 percent. The remaining districts would have minority populations that hover around 15 percent. The county’s minority voters make up 22 percent of the voting population.
“Our people have fought hard to get some representation,” said Harris, the only African American on the commission. “I can campaign, and I can win… But you’ve got to worry about future generations... I can stand the redistricting. It’s who comes after me.”
Harris added from his understanding, all of the other commissioners had input when the new map was being drawn.
“This is strictly targeting me and my district now, at the last minute before elections,” he said, referring to the 2014 elections. “Every other commissioner, take out, put in. Take out, put in. I didn’t have any consideration.”
A county employee drew the new map. Harris advocated for an outside person to do the redistricting. County Administrator Roger Rendleman said he oversaw the employee during the redistricting process.
“I thought he approached it about as equitably as he can,” Rendleman said of the employee. “I just take exception to any question of his integrity.”
Probate Judge and County Commission Chairman Bill English said the commission could preserve minority majority, but could not redistrict based on race.
“This is probably the most gerrymandered district in the state,” District 1 Commissioner Sheila Eckman said. “We’re trying to make things right for you (Harris). I think it’s a little insulting to have all this discussion.”
Harris, who believes the redistricting is an effort to remove certain people from office, threatened to seek legal action against the county if the proposed redistricted map is approved.
“I’ll go to court; I’ll challenge it, and I’ll win… Expect a lawsuit,” Harris said. “Sometimes, when they discriminate, you’ve got to make them pay for it with their pocketbooks.”
District 2 Commissioner Johnny Lawrence noted the county draws a new district map every 10 years.
The public hearing is set for the Nov. 12 county commission meeting at 6 p.m.