Lawsuit dismissed; elections to go on

Published 12:01 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A lawsuit against Warren and nine other counties brought by various local NAACP chapters has been dismissed in federal court, paving the way for local elections to be held this year under existing district boundaries.

The suit sought to extend qualifying deadlines to June 1 for local races in each county because population shifts in the 2010 census forced officials to redraw district lines.

“There is simply an insufficient amount of time for the county boards of supervisors to receive and evaluate the 2010 decennial census data, to redistrict each county in order to remedy any malapportionment, and to comply with State election statutes,” read the ruling from Gulfport-based U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. “Under the circumstances, and absent Justice Department preclearance of the submitted plans, the 2011 elections in the affected counties must be conducted as they are presently configured.”

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Two supervisor district maps are still under consideration by Warren County supervisors after two hearings held since April. Once a map is chosen, the Department of Justice has 60 days to approve it.

Districts 2 and 3 gain population on both proposals for supervisor and school board. Land along U.S. 80 between the city limits and Buck Drive, extending north to Culkin Road and south along Mississippi 27 to Stenson Road, would move to District 2 in the first plan. The second version excludes the city limits-to-Buck Drive strip of territory, currently in District 1.

District 3 would gain in two spots in the first plan — along U.S. 61 South to the city limits, bounded to the south by Grange Hall Road, and a piece south of East Clay Street between rail tracks north of Old Highway 27 and Mississippi 27. In the second version, the central city-based district gains neighborhoods between Halls Ferry Road and Wisconsin Avenue.

A single hearing on a new justice court map is set for 10 a.m. Monday. The justice court’s central district gains voters from the northern district in both maps. In the first, it expands eastward to take in everything between Culkin and Stenson roads except for a strip of U.S. 80 between the city limits and Buck Drive. It also gains territory south of East Clay and U.S. 80, including a chunk east of Mississippi 27 bounded by Stenson and Mount Alban roads.

The second alternative shows the northern district retaining the east side of Mississippi 27 and the central district keeping the expanded borders from the first proposal.

A three-judge panel ruled Monday legislators must run in current districts unless they receive federal preclearance before June 1. The 2012 Legislature would have to drawn new maps if lawmakers opt to wait out the process and hold state House and Senate elections under current maps.