Supervisors take first look at new lines

Published 12:00 pm Friday, March 11, 2011

JACKSON — A plan to redraw Warren County’s five political districts won’t be ready for public perusal for at least a week, but two areas shown by the 2010 census to be predominately black were put into play for reconciling population shifts — all while minding the federal law that protects minority voting strength.

A chunk just beyond the city limits, bounded by rail tracks to the south and Mount Alban Road to the east, emerged as a likely place to subtract the overall head count in District 1 and add to Districts 2 and 3. The northeastern District 1, represented for three terms by David McDonald, grew the fastest in the past 10 years. Districts 2 and 3, represented by William Banks and Charles Selmon, respectively, are minority heavy districts that shrank in the census.

All five supervisors and technical staff with Central Mississippi Planning and Development District weighed options Thursday at the CMPDD’s offices in Jackson. Their goals are to balance the most and least populous districts within a 10 percent range mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice and to not dilute minority voting strength.

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County officials plan to hold this year’s elections under the current lines. A public hearing will be set once the board agrees on a final map. From there, it goes to the DOJ for approval, as per Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The board and CMPDD staff plan to meet again Wednesday.

Shifting District 1’s western-most territory, which takes in Dusty and Paxton roads west of Mississippi 27 and several subdivisions along U.S. 80 between the city and Mount Alban, was cast by McDonald as the only way to comply with the VRA.

“There’s no place else to go,” McDonald said during the three-hour session, centering mostly on how best to add numbers for Banks and Selmon.

In the census, District 1 was densest, with 11,671 people, nearly 70 percent white. District 3, which covers central city, came in smallest at 8,293 and 71 percent black. District 2, which covers north Vicksburg and hugs U.S. 61 North to the Yazoo River, had 8,499 people, about 69 percent black. Districts 4 and 5, covering the southern half of the city and county, came in at 10,142 and 10,168, respectively. District 4’s population is 52.4 percent white, and District 5’s is 62.5 percent white.

A second wedge of land in District 4 between U.S. 61 South and the city limits, bounded to the south by Grange Hall Road, contains significant census blocks where the black population exceeds 80 percent. Selmon stopped short of agreeing to take a census block showing 100 percent black population, on a portion of Grange Hall Road between the end of city limits and Dana Road, which includes the Magnolia Commons apartments. However, the four-term incumbent was open to extending his district south along 61, just short of Hillcrest subdivision.

“I just don’t want to go in the subdivision,” Selmon repeated when the topic of Grange Hall and Hillcrest came up. “I just prefer not to have them.”

Supervisors are elected from each of the five districts, as are members of the Vicksburg Warren School District board. Three districts denote constable and justice court seats, where borders of each are expected to shift due to the census.