Shelby County redistricting battle continues - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby County redistricting battle continues

(WMC-TV) - Shelby County Commissioners are closer than ever to reaching an agreement on new voting boundaries, but the redistricting battle is not over yet.

The commission was supposed to complete redistricting by midnight, January 1, but the task has turned into an all-out war that has exposed the underbelly of Shelby County's economic, political and social conflicts.

Shelby County redistricting was so hard fought that accusations of bribery have been tossed around, a federal judge stepped in to mediate, and police have responded to a threat by one commissioner.

"It ultimately shapes a lot of decisions," said Shelby County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker.

From how tax dollars are spent to where the money goes, the upcoming redistricting vote will establish voting power for the next 10 years.

Wednesday, a map that would create 13 commissioners and 13 districts made it through committee and is up for a final vote next Monday.

Commissioners said redistricting has been the most divisive vote in their political careers.

Commissioner Chris Thomas said it caused a city versus county rift.

"It's like there's a hatred of city versus county suburbs," said Thomas.  "My point is this is that's why we need to keep this as balanced as we can."

Commissioner Sydney Chism said it is racial.

"They're more comfortable with a person of their own ethnic background," said Chism.  "What's wrong with that?  That's something I won't ever apologize to."

Bunker said it is political.

"It's always been, always will be," he said.  "It's just a fact of redistricting.  I'm a Republican and I feel like I need to do what's best for the advancement of my party."

Monday's map would have a majority of city, African American and Democratic commissioners to mirror community demographics.  This is the first out of a dozen maps to garner a two-thirds vote.

"We're still going to fight until the very end, but if you've got nine votes, that's what it takes at the end of the day," said Bunker.

Commissioners said relationships will need mending when all is said and done.

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