By Stephanie R. Jones
JA Contributing Writer
The Hinds County Board of Supervisors have approved new voting districts to comply with population changes noted in the 2020 U.S. Census.
The board held a brief public hearing, something not required by law, before quickly voting to approve one of eight new alignment plans. Supervisors voting for the plan were Board President Credell Calhoun, Dist. 3; Vern O. Gavin, Dist. 4; and Bobby “Bobcat” McGowan, Dist. 5. Supervisors Robert Graham, Dist. 1, and David L. Archie, Dist. 2, voted against the plan.
With the approved district map, Districts 1, 2, and 5 will see the most significant changes. Because the population of District 2 had grown substantially since the 2010 Census, a good portion of it was divided between Districts 1 and 5. But population wasn’t the only measurement that factors into how the lines were drawn.
While some criteria for redistricting are set by U.S. law, others were decided upon by the supervisors. The Voting Rights Acts required that the overall county numbers not add up to a deviation of more than 10 percent of what is an “ideal” number of people in each district. That ideal number for Hinds County is 45,548 per district based on an overall population of 227,742. After the 2020 Census, that deviation stood at 15.77 percent. The new map puts it at 6.15 percent. Not constitutional criteria are that race not be a factor, minority voting strength not be diluted, and districts be of compact and contiguous territory. Another criteria is that no one district can deviate more than 5 percent from the ideal number.
Atty. Carroll Rhodes, whose office handled drawing the maps, said during the public hearing Wednesday, Dec. 7, that the board also provided a list of additional criteria they wanted established. Among those were to include rural areas in all districts; avoid splitting communities of interest; avoid splitting municipalities to the extent possible; follow natural boundaries such as streets, roads, bridges, stream, railroad tracks, etc.; avoid paring incumbents against each other; draw districts with consideration for the Democratic Party.
Rhodes said eight plans were drawn before finally arriving at two plans – seven and eight – that met all criteria.
After hearing from three citizens who signed up on a long list to speak, supervisors ended the hearing and proceeded with motions on the plans. Supervisor Archie moved to accept Plan 8 but it was voted down. Supervisor Gavin then moved in favor of Plan 7, which was approved.
The significant changes in Plan 7 are the shifting of the Cynthia and Pocahontas communities from Dist. 2 to Dist. 1; pushing Learned, Utica, and Cayuga from Dist. 2 to Dist. 5; and moving a northern part of Clinton from Dist. 4 to Dist. 3. The reconfiguration changes no voting precincts.
Calhoun said the redistricting accomplishes something he had long worked on – including rural areas in all districts. “This will be a major help to the citizens of rural Hinds County,” he said.
As it was, he added, some districts had too much rural territory, such as Dist. 2, and some had little or none at all, such as Dist. 1, which was all in the city of Jackson.
With only so much funding to go around, he noted that often rural areas did not get as much attention when it comes to roads repairs and other improvements because the bulk of budgets would go to the cities where there are more people.
Before the vote, Graham and Archie voiced concerns that they had received four plans initially and had provided feedback to Rhodes about two weeks before the meeting. But they had only gotten the other four plans about an hour before the meeting.
“I’ve been looking at five plans (including the previous plan) for the last two weeks and at 5 p.m. today I received four additional maps,” Archie said. “I should have received them sooner. We and Rhodes had talked about them.”
Rhodes said the plans were emailed to Archie and Graham but that the emails “bounced back.”
Graham said after the meeting that he was disappointed with the chosen plan and questioned the timing of the inclusion of other plans at the last minute. “I’m not satisfied. The maps seem to favor the other districts,” he stated. “It seems like some board members had already made up their minds without any discussion.”
Gavin, who voted in favor of Plan 7, said the plan satisfied all the criteria and he was glad to see rural areas being included in each district.
Stephanie R. Jones can be reached at (601) 454-0372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.