County votes 3-2 for redistricting plan

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Warren County Board of Supervisors President Richard George discusses redistricting plans at the Warren County Courthouse Monday. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[02/26/02] A new five-district voting map for Warren County will go to the U.S. Justice Department for review over the objection of the board’s two members who represent minority districts.

Monday’s 3-2 vote came after more than four months of study yielding as many as eight maps.

As with the districts now in place, two of the five districts have black-majority populations and one of them, District 3, continues to be entirely inside the City of Vicksburg.

Under the Voting Rights Act, federal authorities will have 60 days to six months, if needed, to review the lines and approve or reject them. In 1976, federal officials did object to a plan Warren County supervisors submitted and elections were delayed four years until a plan reflecting the county’s racial demographics was submitted.

This year’s adjustment of the voting lines was made necessary by population shifts reflected in the 2000 census.

The tally showed populations varying up to 18 percent district-to-district. The plan adopted Monday has populations in each within 3.3 percent of each other.

Warren County’s population is split racially with 45 percent black and 55 percent white. Under the plan as adopted, District 2, represented by Michael Mayfield, and District 3, represented by Charles Selmon, continue to have non-white majorities.

Although black majorities are greater in the adopted plan, Selmon said the plan he favored was more “forward looking” based on population trends.

Supervisors Richard George of District 5, Bill Lauderdale of District 4 and David McDonald of District 1 indicated the plan they favored called for the least voter disruption.

Half as many current polling places would be split under the adopted plan as the alternate. “Voter apathy is bad enough as it is,” McDonald said, explaining that under the adopted plan, voter lines for seven county precincts will have to be adjusted and the remaining 15 will remain intact.

“Our goal is to be fair and to maintain a system to persuade, encourage and promote voter participation from all citizens,” George said.

Supervisors hired Central Mississippi Planning and Development District consultants to prepare the voter maps and CMPDD will also process submission of the plan to federal officials.

The five-district plan is used for supervisor elections and for school board and election commission races.

The county will also need a three-district map to show north, central and south districts for constables and justice court judges. When that map is prepared and adopted, George said, the five- and three-district plans will be submitted to federal officials at the same time.

George said the board’s goal was to have an approval by last Dec. 1. “We still are on a sound timetable, even though we are behind the target date we set for ourselves,” he said. The next county elections are in the fall of 2003.