Judicial district revamp set as next challenge
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Feb 27, 2013 | 829 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Due to technical difficulties, Bradley County Elections Commissioner Steve Crump displays a picture of a Florida elections official inspecting a ballot with hanging chad by holding a laptop computer above his head.  Banner Photo, DAVID DAVIS
Due to technical difficulties, Bradley County Elections Commissioner Steve Crump displays a picture of a Florida elections official inspecting a ballot with hanging chad by holding a laptop computer above his head. Banner Photo, DAVID DAVIS
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The next big issue facing Tennessee voters in 2013 is redistricting of the judicial districts.

Bradley County Election Commissioner Steve Crump told the Cleveland Rotary Club Tuesday that Bradley County was the poster child for redistricting in 2012. On a local level, there were probably less than 50 people moved by redrawing the county commission districts. The election commission does not draw commission districts.

On the state level, redistricting is done by the General Assembly. There has been a lawsuit filed contesting the Tennessee Senate redistricting. Lawsuits are filed by the minority party every 10 years. They fail and this one will fail also, according to Crump.

“We are redistricted to death here. If I put up a map here, we’re cut in every direction. If I put up a map that showed all these,” he said of the state Senate, state House and congressional districts. “It looks like somebody broke a mirror when you look at these, and it’s going to get worse because they’re not done.”

Crump said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey wants to redistrict all of the judicial districts to more closely represent the population, which means East Tennessee will have slightly more districts and West Tennessee will lose one.

“I have seen a proposed map, but it’s not serious. No one has voted on it, so it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “Keep your ears open, because that’s the next one.”

Crump said it matters who is on the County Commission, and it matters what the oversight body does.

Crump quoted President Abraham Lincoln who said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

All elections in Tennessee are controlled by a statute that requires a state election commission and local election commissions in all 95 counties. The state commission is a body of seven people with no more than two from the same political party coming from the same grand division. All three grand divisions must be represented.

The state legislature selects all seven members of the state board. Four members are in the majority party, Republican, and three are in the Democratic Party, which is now in the minority.

Crump is one of five county election commissioners appointed by area legislators.

The requirement for voters to show a valid photo ID at the polling place took affect in the last election cycle. However, registered voters are still allowed to cast provisional ballots which could be counted if the voter produces a valid identification within 48 hours.

He said the 2008 budget was $340,122. That was the cost of three elections. The budget was reduced in 2010 less than 2008. That goal was accomplished by making difficult decisions to cut positions that were not needed. About $35,000 will be returned to the county General Fund on June 30.

“I get frustrated when I hear the federal government say they can’t cut 2 percent out of the federal government,” he said. “We cut almost 5 percent out of ours. We are now operating at $16,000 and some change less than we did in 2008.”