KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County has new lines of political power as of Thursday after the Knox County Commission adopted a new map of districts and precincts.
In early October, the Knox County Redistricting Committee approved Map 3B, which left a district intact that was mostly made up of minority groups. Other plans had split the voting district, leading to controversy in the community.
Despite approving the plan, some commissioners said they felt rushed by the process. Commissioner Courtney Durrett said that they were supposed to get information about the county's populations and demographics in April, but never saw data until August.
"It seemed like this whole thing went down a crazy route that people were hating, and people were threatening over redistricting," she said. "I think it's because of this democrat, republican fight that we're in. I'm very tired of it because we never move. We want what's best for our communities, but we never get to move in a positive direction."
She said that she only voted yes on the first reading of the map because she felt there was no other viable choice. Legal representatives advised commissioners that they could face a lawsuit if they lost a majority-minority district.
However, during Thursday's meeting, Durrett said that her district was rapidly changing and urged commissioners to consider modifying the map with that in mind. Commissioner Randy Smith said that the map does is not a solid commitment, they can amend it as needed.
“I don’t like it one bit," said Commissioner Terry Hill. "I hope that people understand that we are so locked in by these precinct numbers that it severely limits the decision that we can make."
Jennifer Owen, who represents the second district on the Knox County Board of Education, also spoke at the meeting. She said she was speaking as an individual, and not in her capacity as a representative.
She said that she felt the plan removed the ability of parents to choose their representatives for their schools, and said that the movement of a particular precinct in the second district could lower voter turnout rates despite raising the district's overall population.
According to reports, the new map also moves her out of her district by moving the 74th precinct out into District 8. She can serve out her 4-year term as a representative on KCS, but cannot run for reelection.
"Constituents deserve to understand exactly what you're doing and why," she said. "They deserve to know the districting decisions were made carefully, and with intentionality."