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— In 2012, the Benton County Quorum Court will likely add two members with the certification of the 2010 census.

If Benton County’s population tops the 200,000 mark, two justices of the peace will be added to the 13 who currently sit on the Quorum Court. JP districts will needto be redrawn, said Bill Williams, chairman of the Benton County Election Commission.

Benton County’s population, according to the 2000 census, was 153,406. By 2007, the Census Bureau estimated the county’s population had ballooned to 203,107.

The Election Commission will be charged with redrawing the boundaries, Williams said.

“We are aware this is going to be a big job for us, and we want to redraw (the JP districts) as sensibly as we can,” Williams said.

In redrawing the district lines, the Election Commission will rely on natural boundaries, such as streams and hills, to map out the county so there is no confusion for residents who want to know who their justice of the peace is, Williams said.

One of the main questionsthe Election Commission will need to answer is when the two new seats on the Quorum Court will open.

“If we have more members of the Quorum Court, does this mean the Quorum Court stays the same (with 13 members) until 2012 (with a new election), or are we under mandate to get (the additional members seated) in the 2010 election?” Williams asked, noting that the 2010 census will not affect the number of seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives until the 2012 elections.

Justice of the Peace Robert Stephenson is excited about the potential for two new JPs.

“I look forward to it whether I am there or not,” Stephenson said. “More districts mean that the JPs can be better acquainted with their constituents.”

“The good news is youhave got two more bright minds coming in with new solutions,” Williams said.

The Election Commission and the County Clerk’s Office will begin redrawing JP districts as soon as results from the 2010 census are available, Williams said.

For now, though, “we are just kind of in the first stages. There is a lot of work to be done,” said Christine Southard of the Benton County Clerk’s Office.

News, Pages 6 on 11/04/2009

Print Headline: Quorum Court could add 2 in 2012

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