Redistricting is a smelly process

Published 12:24 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

At some point during adulthood most of us realize just how interwoven into our lives politics truly are.

And even though our elders may have cautioned us to leave it — and religion — at the doorstep during many conversations, it’s such a part of our lives that that’s almost an unrealistic warning.

Politics — not just the partisan kind — have warped just about every angle of our daily lives. Education, health care, non-profit agencies, you name it and it is affected.

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It’s what makes our nation what we love and what we hate.

So I shouldn’t be surprised each time another board of local officials begins a redistricting process, right? Yet every time, I just can’t get over how rotten the whole deal smells.

The laws that govern local boards, and the state Legislature, allow sitting politicians to redraw the lines that elected them. And we, the voters, are fine with this.

Every 10 years — if new census numbers require new lines — the problems arise and the taxpayer dollars are wasted.

Mississippians watched earlier this year as our elected leaders on the state level wasted our money and their time to debate a redistricting plan they never agreed upon. Finally, the matter was simply handed to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Just a few months ago, Concordia Parish Police Jury members allowed one juror to repeat the same concern so many times that the deadline for receiving plan approval before elections passed.

Jury elections originally scheduled for this Saturday won’t happen, but will cost taxpayers money during a special election.

Now, the City of Natchez is racing a similar redistricting deadline ahead of city elections.

When the city’s paid redistricting consultant hung a proposed redistricting map during a board of aldermen work session Tuesday afternoon the aldermen abandoned discussions of two issues at the forefront for many in the community — a leash law ordinance and county fire protection — to all but rush to the new map.

Several aldermen studied it closely and at length before a public hearing on the map began.

It’s an important issue, and I’m glad they are taking it seriously. But it still smells.

For example, several aldermen celebrated with Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis when they noticed that the proposed map draws her most persistent opponent in recent elections, Jim Sanders, out of the ward they’ve shared for 10 years.

Other aldermen have requested that certain streets and neighborhoods remain in their ward — presumably because they know they have a stronghold on the voters in that area.

You can’t blame the aldermen, really. Most of us would share the same self-serving concerns.

The fault lies with the system, and the voters who allow it to persist.

Politics will permeate our lives, our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives as long as we continue to let them.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or