CATEGORY: EDT Editorials
Editorial, Thursday, June 24, 1999
Chickasaw County's voters can't buy a break when it comes to having a hassle-free election.
U.S. Magistrate Jerry Davis of Tupelo this week delayed elections for justice court judges and constables in Chickasaw County because the county has not received approval from the Justice Department for districts drawn under contract with the Three Rivers Planning and Development District.
The court, acting at the county's request, stopped elections for those two offices until new districts are approved.
No one knows when that will happen. It might happen quickly, or it might take years, as have other election-related controversies in the county.
The Board of Supervisors had asked the court to delay voting or issue a redistricting plan of its own. The court obviously had as little time as the supervisors and did not attempt to draw a plan of its own.
Now, supervisors must wait on the Justice Department to approve or disapprove what's been submitted. All voting district changes in states under jurisdiction of the Voting Rights Act must get clearance from the U.S. Justice Department to assure racial equity in redrawn districts for every office.
Race, in too many counties across Mississippi and the rest of the South, remains a painfully necessary impediment to resolving electoral problems. The law is clear. Voting districts can't discriminate based on race and, generally, must maximize minority voting strength.
Despite case after case of rejections based on inadequate consideration given racial equity, governing boards charged with redrawing various kinds of voting districts can't seem to get it right on their own. Voting issues too often end up in front of a federal judge, sometimes even going to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Local, regional and state governing bodies charged with electoral redistricting fritter away the power granted states by the U.S. Constitution in refusing to come to grips with racial equity in voting.
Inequity and discrimination, as much as some people would prefer that unconstitutional practice, is finished.
Southerners in counties and cities where lawsuits rule the electoral process have grown beyond a single generation of voters. It's time for normality and rational decisions based on law to rule the process. The politics of the past is futile, and Mississippi's voters deserve the right to vote in a timely way.
Tupelo's delegation to the 50th anniversary competition for the All-America City Awards in Philadelphia carries the message of a changing community powered by the energy of progressive attitudes and actions.
More than 30 people, including clients of the Family Resource Center and the Good Samaritan Free Clinic, plus residents of the Historic Downtown Neighborhood, will travel to Philadelphia to tell their stories of how community-backed agencies and actions changed their lives for the better.
Tupelo, which won the award in 1967 and again in 1989, made the agencies' work and the downtown neighborhood's dramatic renewal the centerpiece of its application. The official delegation also includes Mayor Glenn McCullough, banker Lewis Whitfield (he will narrate the presentation to judges), and citizens affiliated in some way with the projects.
Whitfield, president of Community Federal Bank, was a member of the 1989 delegation that made Tupelo's presentation based on innovations in public education. He and others said again seeking the award is part of Tupelo's progressive attitude and a competitive spirit present since the community's founding in 1870.
The 1999 official delegation, financed in large measure by private-sector contributions, is the most economically, culturally and racially diverse the city has sent to any major event. That in itself demonstrates a renewed and expanding sense of community unity overcoming all the traditional barriers to cooperation in pursuit of a common goal.
Tupelo's winning isn't certain, but the effort and determination of participants already has expanded the community's understanding of itself.
Statistics provide information about a community's success. People give a human face to success and those whose ideas inspired the effort.
Tupelo is putting its people center stage this weekend in Philadelphia because what they have to say makes the good statistics lively and meaningful.