DeSoto County Passes New Electoral Maps | New

The DeSoto County Board of Supervisors has adopted a new electoral map defining the boundaries of the political districts where people will vote for the next decade.

The council held a public hearing on Monday and considered four potential maps produced by a consultant, along with two alternative maps presented by District 40 State Representative Hester Jackson-McCray and one by the DeSoto County Redistricting Committee designed to increase the representation of minority votes.

Chris Watson of Bridge & Watson Inc. explained the process and how his company created the cards. He said the redistricting process was based on the principle of one person, one vote. Political maps are redrawn every ten years to account for population growth and changes to ensure districts are equally balanced and fairly represented by population.

Watson said that by law, districts can only deviate by 10%. Due to growth in DeSoto County over the past ten years, county districts have shrunk by approximately 26.5%.

“For example, in District 1, the number of gaps was 2,159. That means District 1 is overcrowded by that many people,” Watson said. “District 3 is underpopulated by 5,732 people. This means that many people have to be moved from certain electoral districts to other electoral districts in an effort to reduce this gap from 26.5% to a number below 10%.

Watson said DeSoto County is unique in that it is the only county in Mississippi that has five elected offices that are all elected using the same electoral maps — board of supervisors, board of directors, school board, constables and judges of the Court of Justice.

“Nowhere else in the the state is that the case,” Watson said. “It’s a product of the fact that the population of DeSoto County is large enough to require five constables and a number of school districts.”

Watson said DeSoto County’s minority population has grown over the past decade and many neighborhoods have become significantly more diverse.

“District 1, for example, went from 20.9% to 30.3%,” Watson said. “District 2 has seen a significant increase, as have Districts 3 and 4. So what you’re trying to do is draw a set of districts that don’t hurt the minority electoral strength that has increased or accumulated over time.

Watson said another factor they considered is whether they have the obligation under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting practices or procedures on the on the basis of race, color or membership of a minority group, to create a minority election. district. He said his company tried to draw a minority-majority district, but couldn’t reach 50%. Alternate Map 1 contained the highest minority voters with 38.5% in District 3.

“When you take someone who is part (minority) you still can’t hit the 50% mark,” Watson said. “I could bring the minority to about 48% of any part of the black voting age. The highest concentration of minorities is in what I will call the Horn Lake area.

Watson said they applied traditional constituency principles to craft the maps, including keeping districts compact, keeping incumbents within their districts, avoiding splitting wards, avoiding removing central areas from a riding and using visible boundaries like roads, streams, and power bonds.

Watson said he met with all elected officials to get feedback on the redistricting process, as well as members of the DeSoto County Redistricting Committee, an independent group of citizens concerned about the process.

He said the difference between the four maps is mostly geographic, but all four options are within the 10% gap.

“Each alternate has a type of setting, something that’s a little bit different,” Watson said. “Numerically, there are a lot of similarities in terms of the effect of each of the shots.”

During the public consultation, Kelly Jacobs, a political activist, asked the board if the maps were available online, as many people in the audience were seeing them for the first time.

County Administrator Vanessa Lynch said the county announced in the newspaper that the maps were available for public inspection at the county administration building.

Sharon Wofford of Nesbit asked the county to consider holding another public hearing after 5 p.m. so more people can attend.

“People work at 8 a.m.,” Wofford said. “This is valuable information that everyone needs because it will shape our next ten years.”

Dolores Herdey agreed and said she thought it was unfair for people to see the cards for the first time. She urged the county to file it.

“It’s totally inconsiderate. I’m appalled that we can sit here and make a decision within about an hour,” Herdey said. “Not everyone is so astute to know this information is even there. I commend you for the information you are giving us, but what I see is that it is not representative of everything going on in DeSoto County.

Southaven’s Pam McKelvy Hamner said she had been asking the county for more transparency in the redistricting process since August 2021 and agreed the public needed more time to study the maps.

“We were told it would be seamless,” Hamner said. “And here we are today where you are going to vote and we have no idea what you are going to decide. We are dealing with an enormous amount of information today. I think in all fairness the process should be done so that the public has more time to look at these cards so that we have a better idea of ​​what we will be voting on over the next ten years.

James Wood of Olive Branch asked to what extent there were plans to draw a majority minority district.

“He mentioned 48% was the best minorities could get. What consideration was given to this card? Wood asked.

Watson said this would require substantial geographic change and could be considered racial gerrymandering.

“There would be substantial, substantial geographic changes,” Watson said. “The Voting Rights Act is all over the place. If you lump together a district with a minority party as the main driving principle to create that district and disregard those traditional redistricting principles, the courts have found that to be racial gerrymandering. I’m not saying it would have been racial gerrymandering, but it would have been an important consideration in the design of the districts.

Bobby Holloway, an elected constable, said race shouldn’t even be part of the discussion.

“I hate that it’s 2022 and we’re still talking about black and white when there’s only one race and that’s the human race,” Holloway said.

He pointed out that one of the proposed cards – Variant 3 – splits its street and exits the core of Eudora from District 4.

“There’s no other elected official here in DeSoto County where a line is drawn right down the middle of the street,” Holloway said. “Eudora has been in District 4 since the 1930s and even before. I would just ask that alternative 3 be changed.

Alderman Andrew Miller of Hernando, who represents Ward 2, said the maps divide his ward’s black community as drawn and asked them to take that into consideration and possibly make an adjustment.

“All plans except one plan divide the heart of the black community in the town of Hernando,” Miller said. “That’s my only concern I have about these plans. I would like you to adjust that as you come up with a final plan.

District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell agreed with Miller.

“I totally agree,” Caldwell said. “This hadn’t been thought of. I’m glad you brought this to our attention.

Jackson-McCray introduced an alternate map called the “Magnolia Blossom” map that would create a Majority Minority District in District 4.

“I am here to ask my DeSoto Board of Supervisors if you would please adopt a redistricting map that is drawn so that DeSoto County’s minority population – which has grown to 41% – has the opportunity to have a seat at the table where DeSoto County decisions will be made for the next ten years,” Jackson-McCray said.

The map proposed by Jackson-McCray would include Walls and Horn Lake and would be a 63.3% minority.

“This proposed ‘Magnolia Blossom’ is a community plan for DeSoto County that is very balanced against the population of the five districts, respects voting rights, and has a 4.62% variance,” Jackson said- McCray. “Please be inclusive in your decision on the new DeSoto County boundary and give the minority population of DeSoto County a chance to be elected to sit at the table where our county decisions are made for our entire future. “

District 2 Supervisor Mark Gardner said the goal is to create balanced districts regardless of race.

“Chris explained what our redistricting obligation is,” Gardner said. “It’s to balance the neighborhoods. I have reviewed each plan presented and my goal is to be fair to all and not to create a majority minority district, but to give balance to all districts, and also to balance the number of voters.

District 1 Supervisor Jessie Medlin, who has served on the council for 31 years, said the council has been extremely transparent and open about the redistricting process.

“This is my third recut,” Medlin said. “This council has been more open and the community has been more interested in this redistricting than any other since I’ve been here. They were open and we asked Mr. Watson to meet people and do what we could to accommodate people. He doesn’t even satisfy all of us, so how is he going to satisfy you? His firm did it three times for us. I feel comfortable with him. It’s all over the state of Mississippi.

However, the board agreed with Miller’s concerns about dividing Ward 2 in Hernando and asked Watson to return with a revised map.

According to the new map, the Hill Street area would be assigned to District 5 while the area south of West Oak Grove Road would go from District 5 to District 4. The area between Horn Lake Road and Fogg Road was moved from District 5 to district. 4, and a neighborhood north of the highway. 302 was moved from District 3 to District 4.

“For this swap to work, it affects 3, 4, and 5,” Watson said. “We had to move some of the population to make it work.”

Caldwell said she was happy with the new card.

“It was a good process,” Caldwell said.

District 5 Supervisor and Board Chair Michael Lee also said he was pleased.

“I think we achieved the goal of balancing the districts,” Lee said. “And I think everyone had a chance to be heard and to have their say.”

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