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District lines set for state, federal OKs
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Effingham County commissioners have approved what they hope will be the final version for county commission and school board districts.

Now, they’ll await any action by the General Assembly and the U.S. Department of Justice. Gov. Nathan Deal has to allow the state lawmakers — who will convene in a special session this month for state redistricting — to take up local redistricting.

“If not, then we’ll have to do it in January, and we’ll have to have precincts moved after February,” said county clerk Patrice Crawley.

If the map isn’t voted on during the upcoming special session and doesn’t meet federal approval, the county will have to wait until the General Assembly’s next regular session in January to put the new districts map up for approval. The next countywide vote is February’s presidential preference primary.

In that case, new districts and voting precincts wouldn’t be in effect until July’s general primaries.

“You could possibly vote in the early part of the year in one district and then next election vote in another district,” said 3rd District Commissioner Steve Mason.

Added Crawley: “It will be very confusing to citizens of Effingham County.”

But if the map is voted on and approved by the Legislature and the Department of Justice, new districts and precincts are expected to take effect in time for February’s presidential primary.

As it stands now, the most populous district is the 5th, with 10,624. Based on the 2010 Census, the target population for each district was 10,450, out of the county’s population of 52,250. Under the current map, it was the second most populous, with 11,992 people currently.

District 4 is losing the most people, dropping from 12,846 on the current Census count to 10,531. District 3, which is growing in acreage and population, is gaining the most people, up to 10,385 from 7,796.

District 3 also takes up more than the half of the county’s nearly 485 square miles. At 258 square miles, it has 53 percent of Effingham’s land mass. District 2, which had to add population as state map makers tweaked the lines brought to them late last month, also is the smallest of the districts at 42.63 square miles.