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franklin county times

Redistricting plans target Lauderdale County

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Oct. 9, 2001
Lauderdale County is not out of the woods in terms of congressional redistricting, officials said Monday, even though two preliminary proposals that would have split the county were rejected last week.
Local officials learned Monday during a meeting of the Council of Governments that nothing is final as legislators seek to draw new boundaries and eliminate one of the state's five U.S. congressional seats.
Much of the attention is on an effort by some legislators to give U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss., a politically safer area by boosting the black voting age population, known as BVAP, in a new central district to as high as 40 percent. Under more than one plan being considered, Shows, of Columbia, could face U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., of Laurel, in next year's congressional races.
State Rep. Charles Young Sr., D-Meridian, who serves on the Joint Legislative Reapportionment and Congressional Redistricting Committee, told COG attendees many plans remain to be considered.
Two of the plans rejected by the legislative committee on Friday would have split Lauderdale County into separate congressional districts. Part of the county would have gone to an expanded coastal district, a move that some local officials have decried as divisive and ineffective.
According to on-the-record vote tallies at the committee meeting in Jackson, Young voted for preliminary redistricting plans that would have split Lauderdale County. State Sen. Terry Burton, D-Newton, another member of the panel, voted against them.
One plan voted down would have mandated that experts in the field of such issues as black voting age population draw the new lines, effectively taking the project out of legislative hands.
State Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said the problem is not that legislators don't know how to draw lines appropriately; it's a matter of different political opinions about how they should be drawn.
The point of what's called economic plans or regional plans is to keep geographic areas of interest and economic units together. The criticism, he said, comes from people who say these plans tend to favor Republicans.
If legislators develop plans advantageous to Shows, Lauderdale County is generally considered prime territory for a split, he said.
Snowden said people should strongly encourage their representatives to work toward a plan that leaves Lauderdale County intact and in the central district.
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.

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