SURRATT: Voting precinct changes should help, not hinder voters

Published 4:00 am Friday, July 15, 2022

Redistricting, that political event held every 10 years where local and state politicians draw new district and ward lines to coincide with population shifts discovered by the Census, is over for Warren County and Vicksburg.

But our local officials are being tasked with one other job: reviewing and redoing the county’s voting precincts. I hope they come up with a more sensible plan than we have now.

I say sensible because our current setup of 23 precincts, quite frankly, stinks.

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Here’s why.

Voters living in the city, in many cases, vote at different precincts — one for the county, state and federal elections and a different precinct for the city elections, creating confusion among some voters. I can remember a call during a municipal election where the person said they went to the precinct where they last voted and it was locked. It turned out they went to the precinct where they voted in the county elections, not their city precinct.

In some cases, voters — either county or city — have to travel a good distance to vote in the county and state elections, sometimes passing a closer precinct to do so.

I live on the extreme southern end of Vicksburg in Supervisor District 4. My voting precinct for county, state and federal elections is Yokena Presbyterian Church, which is a good distance from my home. On the way, I pass the precinct at Immanuel Baptist Church, which is also in District 4 and only a couple of miles from my home.

It makes me wonder about the thought process involved back when those precincts were determined.

In the years since I cast my first ballot in an election, my wife and I have gone to one precinct to vote in all elections in nearly every other place we’ve lived. The lone exception was Lauderdale County, but both precincts were close to home. Growing up in Baton Rouge, one precinct; Baker, La., one precinct; Cullman, Ala., one precinct; Pascagoula, one precinct. All were close to where we lived.

I, and I guess the rest of the voters in Warren County and Vicksburg, would like to see the same situation here. I hope that when the officials tasked with relocating precincts will look at maps of the county and city, they will try to put precincts within a reasonable distance from homes and make as many city precincts as possible one-stop shops, where voters can cast their ballots for all elections at one precinct.

I realize that not every precinct can be a one-stop shop, and I realize that not every precinct can be within a couple of minutes from a voter’s home. But it makes no sense when someone going to vote at their assigned precinct passes a precinct in the same district that is closer to home.

Election laws and precinct locations are supposed to make it easier for people to vote. I hope the officials working to relocate precincts remember that.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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