County leaders in blame game over school district "mistake"

The battle over Shelby County school district boundaries is heating up tonight as County Commissioners and Election Commissioners blame each other for a possible mistake made two years ago.  It's a fight that could affect this year's school board races.

This began because one Shelby County Commissioner wanted to redraw school district lines, so that a minority could be elected to the all-white school board.  Now election officials say the County Commission has no choice but to redraw the lines.  Because - they say - the current map is illegal and has been for two years.  The stage is set for a fight.  In fact, it's already underway.

Shelby County Commissioner David Lillard says the newly discovered "mapping" mistake makes no sense.

"If it was a mistake, that should have been caught, to have it go two years to the day before somebody brings it up, it basically negates the possibility of meaningful public input," he says.

At an education committee meeting Monday, Election officials told County Commissioners they must redraw the school district map, because the current map should never have been approved in the first place.

On the current map, district four is split down the middle by district seven.  County Commissioners approved it two years ago.  Election officials say now only the state can split precincts.

A new map - pitched this week - would redraw the districts.

But the timing - a week before the filing deadline for school board positions - has Lillard outraged.  "Certainly someone at the election commission would have realized that precincts were being split!"

"The way it happened is because the County Commission approved it," responds Election Commission Chairman Greg Duckett.  He says the Commission is to blame and that not fixing the map now could lead to a federal lawsuit.

"The reality of the process is as it relates to redistricting, that is not an election commission issue.  That is a legislative body, whether it is the state legislature or the county commission.  It's their responsibility," he says.

The question - either way - is why no one found out about it until now.

The County Commission is having a special meeting to hash this out and to likely vote on it tomorrow at 3pm.  The filing deadline for the school board positions is April 6th at Noon.