CATEGORY: Pontotoc County
Pontotoc seeks to even ward populations
By Jane Hill
PONTOTOC - Three Rivers Planning and Development officials are working on a Pontotoc redistricting proposal after aldermen approved a resolution that will bring the city into compliance with federal voting laws.
Pontotoc Mayor Herman Austin said one ward in particular is far out of compliance with the federal "one man, one vote" rule which requires all city wards to have basically the same population. The number of people living in each ward should not deviate more than 10 percent from any other ward.
The last time the city's four wards underwent a redistricting was in 1980.
"Ward 3 is 30 percent larger than Ward 2," Austin said. "We should have redistricted before the last election after the 1990 Census came out."
According to that census data, Pontotoc's population is 4,570. Ward 1 was shown to have 1,087 residents, Ward 2 was shown to have 847 residents, Ward 3 was shown to have 1,496 residents and Ward 4 was shown to have 1,140 residents, according to the census.
However, in recent years, city officials have been discussing the possibility of annexing property, particularly in the potential growth areas to the north of the current city limits along Mississippi Highways 9 and 15. Waiting until after annexation would have saved the city the trouble of redistricting both before and after the new territory was added to the city limits, Austin said.
Because the board of aldermen has not agreed to proceed with an annexation study, Austin said, it has decided to proceed with the redistricting now.
Mid Brown, a demographer with Three Rivers Planning and Development District, is working on drawing up a redistricting plan for the city free of charge.
Pontotoc's Ward 1 contains a majority of black voters and should not be significantly affected by the redistricting, Austin said.
The aim in any redistricting plan is to even the populations of all the wards without gerrymandering or giving advantage to any one political candidate or party. Brown will also seek to preserve neighborhoods or natural boundaries that have defined voting districts in the past and avoid lumping incumbents in the same ward.
The aldermen are expected to appoint a biracial committee to review the redistricting alternatives presented by Brown and to make a recommendation to the board on which plan the city should adopt and submit for Justice Department approval.
The Justice Department usually requires at least six weeks to review a redistricting proposal to accept it, refuse it or request additional information on it.
At the rate that Pontotoc is growing in population, there is no way to tell how long this redistricting will remain effective, Austin said. Current estimates put the city's population growth rate at almost 6 percent annually.