County rejects new voting precinct maps

Published 10:46 am Tuesday, March 25, 2014

New precinct lines adopted last week in a cloud of confusion were rescinded Monday by the Warren County Board of Supervisors, a move that had been expected from the moment they were adopted.

The reversal means no change this year for voters who’ve cast ballots for years at Elks Lodge and since 2011 at Immanuel Baptist Church. Warren County Election Commission members are to meet 1 p.m. Wednesday to hash out details on a map that will incorporate the redistricting plan the county OK’d after the 2010 census.

Primary elections for U.S. House and Senate races is June 3. The general election is June 4 and, in Warren County, adds local races for circuit and chancery judgeships and two spots on the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees.

Initially, commissioners had proposed 265 voters in the Jett and Tingleville precincts be moved to the Elks and YMCA precincts. Questions arose quickly following last Monday’s action by county supervisors over how the five-member elections panel arrived at the decision and the map itself.

“The commission didn’t follow the open meetings act by giving five days notice before a called meeting,” County Administrator John Smith said while presenting the item to the board. “Since they did not have a properly called meeting, we have to rescind the action.”

Commissioners had raced to meet a state-set deadline today for Mississippi counties to update the state’s election management system database in time to make changes effective for this year’s election. With that deadline missed, any changes to how the county’s 22 precinct lines are configured won’t go into effect until the 2015 county/state election cycle.

Three commissioners, Sara Carlson Dionne, Jan Whatley and Lonnie Wooley signed the panel’s first request, approved minutes before last week’s meeting of the county board. Commissioners Retha Summers Elva Smith-Tolliver were not included in the first vote. Supervisors approved it 5-0 and asked questions later. The lone question of Monday’s session was answered in short order.

“What measures can we put in place so we don’t go down this trail again,” District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon asked.

“We’ve got to be thinking, that’s the trouble,” District 5 Supervisor Richard George said. “We should have known this when they walked in here unannounced, not on the agenda, not anyone knowing anything about it. When we’re not thinking, this is what we end up with.”

The map had shown part of the Jett precinct west of U.S. 61 South, between Kemp Bottom Road and the Mississippi River bridges, moving to Elks. It also showed a sliver of territory east of 61 along Dana Road moving, though that was promptly questioned because it didn’t touch the rest of the precinct. A second change involved moving the Greenbriar subdivision from Tingleville to YMCA, which votes at Porters Chapel United Methodist Church.

The lone race this year governed by new district lines is a special election for constable in the central district, prompted by the death of Randy Naylor last year. Redistricting after the 2010 census expanded the district to pick up areas between Culkin Road and Interstate 20, Old Highway 27 and Mississippi 27, as well as farther into Chickasaw, Kings and Ford subdivisions.

School board races in November feature contests in Districts 3 and 4, where precincts will hold steady until next year.

In 2011, county supervisors OK’d expanding District 2 and District 3 to reflect population loss inside the city. Starting with the 2015 state/county election cycle, District 2, represented by William Banks, will expand north to Culkin Road and south along Mississippi 27 to Stenson Road. A strip of U.S. 80 between the city limits and Bucks Drive will stay in District 1.

District 3, represented by Charles Selmon, gains in three spots for 2015 — along U.S. 61 South beyond the city limits to Grange Hall Road, south of East Clay Street between Old Highway 27 and Mississippi 27 and east of Halls Ferry Road in and around Lake Hill Drive.