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franklin county times

New boundaries on drawing board

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
May 27, 2001
With Census 2000 results in, county supervisors across east Mississippi are preparing to redraw political boundaries that will define their districts  as well as Justice Court and school districts for the next decade.
Results of the complicated process must eventually win approval of the U.S. Justice Department, so some supervisors may decide soon to seek professional help in drawing the lines. For that, boards may turn to such organizations as the East Central Planning and Development District.
For ECPDD, and organizations like it, such work can be lucrative as boards contract for statistical expertise in drawing new boundaries that deviate minimally from the population norm. Attention to black voting age population is also important.
Jenifer Buford, community development director at ECPDD, met with Newton County supervisors last week to discuss the process and the possibility of signing a contract to do the work.
She has received population figures by districts for Clarke, Kemper, Lauderdale, Newton and Neshoba counties.
Buford said the purpose of redistricting is to bring districts back into compliance required by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Officials must also look at minority populations in counties to determine at what percentage minorities should be represented, she said.
Determining new lines for Justice Court and school districts works the same way, she said, in that population should be as equal as possible and can't have more than a total 10 percent deviation between all the districts in each system.
Population in each district can't be compared to that of the 1990 census for gains and losses because district lines are different. They were redrawn after the 1990 census.
Each district's population can be compared to the current ideal population, and figures supplied by Buford shows how much work there is to be done in each county to bring districts into compliance.
Lauderdale County Administrator Rex Hiatt said he does not yet know who will do their redistricting work.
The work will not have to be bid, he said, because it is a professional service.
Supervisors' and Justice Court district lines will have to be redrawn before the November 2003 elections. School district lines must be redrawn before a county's next school board elections.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.