Rep. Flaggs offers 5th plan for county’s redistricting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 23, 2001

[10/23/01]A fifth plan for supervisor districts in Warren County was delivered by state Rep. George Flaggs at the first of two planned hearings on new voting lines.

Flaggs, also a member of the legislative committee charged with redrawing districts for federal and state elections, said Monday he and other citizens came up with their map when the Warren County Board of Supervisors failed to invite public participation as they had after the 1990 Census.

“Because of that process (10 years ago) we were able to work out the differences the community had vs. what the board had,” Flaggs said. “Because of that process we were able to get a unanimous vote, carry it to the Justice Department … It was the quickest turnaround that this county has ever had because we had public input on the front end.”

Supervisors countered that they were involving the public and that plans drawn up by consultants for presentation at the hearing included options.

“We are not trying to shove anything down throats,” said District 1 Supervisor David McDonald. “We tried to come up with a couple of plans for a starting point.”

The next county elections are in 2003. Before then, existing lines that slice the county into five parts for supervisor, school board and election commission seats must be redrawn to balance populations and meet federal law on racial balance.

A plan dividing the county into three parts for justice court judge and constable posts will also be required. All other county officials are elected at-large.

Supervisors had three plans to show that had been devised by demographers at Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, the county’s redistricting consultant. CMPDD personnel also helped District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon develop a fourth plan.

Chuck Carr of CMPDD said they started by superimposing Census 2000 population information on the existing plan.

“The top to bottom variation was 25 percent and that is fairly high,” he said.

To meet U.S. Justice Department guidelines, that figure, which reflects district-to-district population, should not exceed 10 percent. Since the racial split in Warren County is 60 percent white, 40 percent black, two districts have been configured with majority black populations for the past 20 years. All plans continue that arrangement.

The plan designated No. 1 shows the least change from the existing districts and comes up with a variance of 5.85 percent while maintaining black voter majorities in Districts 2 and 3 with District 3 continuing to be entirely inside Vicksburg.

Additional plans allot city and county turf to each district. “Plans 2 and 3 are what we called radial plans,” Carr said.

Both plans have variances less than 10 percent 7.63 percent for Plan 2 and 3.95 for Plan 3 but both plans reduce the black voting majorities in Districts 2 and 3 from today’s level.

Plan 4, devised by Selmon, has a variance of 6.72 percent and maintains minority voting strength in Districts 2 and 3.

Flaggs said 10 years ago the board appointed a citizen committee to make recommendations, a fact important in the required federal review.

He said the plan he and others have prepared is better that the other four.

“This plan complies not only with … the one-man-one vote concept, it complies with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and conforms with all the laws of the State of Mississippi as relates to redistricting,” Flaggs said.

It has a variance of 0.38 percent, does not dilute minority voting strength and creates reasonably compact districts, he said. The districts maintain a cohesiveness of community under which the residents attend the same churches, their children attend the same schools and they socialize together, the district boundary lines respect incumbents and community identities are maintained, he said.

Board Attorney Randy Sherard said the supervisors will have as many hearings as needed before members make a decision on what plan to send to the Justice Department.

The next hearing is planned for Monday at 7 p.m. at the board’s meeting room on the third floor of the Warren County Courthouse.

The four plans devised by the supervisors and the plan submitted by Flaggs will be available for the public through the Chancery Clerk’s Office.