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County’s redistricting proposals will be available on Oct. 8

[9/20/01]Maps showing options on how to divide Warren County for 2003 elections should be available the second Monday in October, supervisors said.

At least three plans and maybe a fourth one are being proposed to slice the county into five parts to elect supervisors, school trustees and election commissioners and three parts to elect justice court judges and constables.

After each 10-year census, lines used in all by-district elections nationally must be revised to balance them by population. Where there has been racial discrimination, as in Mississippi, the lines must also meet federal rules against splitting up minority voting power.

“We started work as soon as the census data became available,” said Richard George, District 5 supervisor and board president.

Supervisors hired consultants at Central Mississippi Planning and Development District to tally the populations and racial compositions of existing districts and suggest changes.

“We’ve got three plans pretty much completed,” said David McDonald, District 1 supervisor.

George and McDonald said all five supervisors met with CMPDD officials to work on the three plans. Those plans and perhaps a fourth will be available for public inspection beginning Oct. 8 in preparation for two public hearings. The hearings will be at the Warren County Courthouse at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 22 and at 7 p.m. Oct. 29.

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon said he wanted to work with CMPDD on a plan of his own. That plan, which would be a fourth alternative, is not complete, he said.

Census 2000 numbers showed population changes in the districts in the past 10 years exceed the allowed variation, meaning existing districts cannot be renewed.

“We found out that Districts 2 and 3 lost quite a few people and Districts 1 and 5 had gains,” McDonald said.

Based on the census data, Warren County has 49,644 people making an ideal district one with a population of 9,929. District 2 is 15.26 percent from the ideal and District 4 is 10.05 percent from the ideal.

Another aspect of the existing five-district plan is that one of the two existing black-majority districts, District 3, is completely inside Vicksburg’s corporate limits.

One of the plans maintains black voting strength in Districts 2 and 3 in excess of 70 percent while the other two plans maintain black voting strength above 60 percent.

George said two plans leave one district wholly within the city limits and one does not.

“We did one plan where we divided the county into five districts so they all have city and county responsibilities,” he said.

The numbers for that plan do not work out well as far as black-to-white ratios are concerned, he said.

Supervisors also worked to keep the districts compact as opposed to meandering, he said, and to keep as many of the polling places as possible the same, and keep from putting people now in office in districts with other incumbents.

“We will listen to the comments made at the hearings and take them into consideration,” George said, adding additional plans may result from what the people have to say.

Once a plan is adopted by supervisors, it must be forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department and receive approval before elections can be held.

“That’s why we started on this as soon as we got the census numbers,” George said.

After Oct. 8, anyone who wants to look at the proposed plans will be able to go to Chancery Clerk Dot McGee’s office and ask to be taken to the supervisors’ board room where maps will be kept.