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City Council district maps approved by Justice Department
Differing city school maps still under review
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The city of Gainesville's redistricted voting map was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The city was given notice this week that "the attorney general does not interpose any objection" to the new map.

On Tuesday, Mayor Danny Dunagan welcomed the approval of the new ward map, though he said he wasn't surprised.

"We felt like we submitted a good plan and followed all the guidelines," said Dunagan, adding the city probably exceeded many of the requirements.

Gainesville City Council passed its redistricting plans for council wards in October with some controversy when it chose a map that differed from one supported by the Gainesville Board of Education. The two entities have traditionally approved maps with the same boundary lines, and the change could bring higher costs to citywide elections.

The school district's map, which was approved by the school board in December, has gone to state officials for approval but has not been submitted for federal review, said Gainesville Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.

The City Council's vote on its map was split 3-2, with Councilman George Wangemann changing his mind from supporting a map proposed by the school district to one earlier developed by the municipal government with public input.

The approach to redrawing boundaries by the majority of City Council was characterized by an effort to evenly split existing populations among the five wards. In October, Wangemann said he changed his vote opting to support a map that better illustrated the "one man, one vote" mandate of the Voting Rights Act.

The school board's map leaned toward maintaining traditional minority voting blocks in Ward 3 and Ward 4, with some variations in population size.

The process of electing officials for the two bodies is different as council members are elected citywide but school board members are elected only in their districts.

Differing voting boundaries between the two maps is expected to be accompanied by higher election costs. The number of ballot options at Gainesville's three voting precincts could triple, local elections officials say.

Attorney Drew Whalen, hired by the city as counsel on reapportionment issues, had said that the approved plan more evenly distributed residents across the city's five wards.

Maps go through a redistricting process every 10 years, changing with the U.S. Census.

Under the Voting Rights Act, Georgia's districts must receive federal approval for all election-related changes because of the state's past history of voter discrimination.

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