Redistricting plans to be reviewed by aldermen

Published 12:05 am Thursday, October 27, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Natchez resident Armando Ricci takes a look at the redistricting maps in City Hall Wednesday afternoon.

Natchez — Two redistricting plans, one of which has three majority black wards and one that has four majority black wards, are up for review and discussion at the Natchez Board of Aldermen’s specially called meeting today.

The aldermen have said they will vote on a final plan today. The plan must then go to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval.

Bill Rigby, the consultant with Holland and Rigby — the company hired by the city to complete a redistricting plan — said he received an alternate plan via e-mail at 4:15 p.m. on Monday.

The maps represent two redistricting plans to be reviewd by the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

Rigby said there was no indication in the e-mail as to who sent the plan. It was sent from j2mat1@aol.com, the same e-mail address Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis apparently used to send an e-mail to her private attorney regarding an alternate plan last week.

Mathis said at the Natchez Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People submitted the plan.

Mathis said she would not give any information she had about the alternate plan or say she sent it for or as a member of the NAACP.

“All that information will be forthcoming at (tonight’s) meeting,” she said.

Rigby said the alternate plan has Wards 1, 2, 4 and 5 designated as majority black wards. He said the alternate plan decreases the overall population of black voters in Wards 1, 2 and 4 — wards that are currently majority black and remain that way in the plan. That, Rigby said, will be a red flag for the DOJ.

Rigby said, in his opinion, the reduction of black voters in those three wards would cause the DOJ to deny

The maps represent two redistricting plans to be reviewd by the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

approval of the plan.

The plan prepared by Rigby matches the voting age population numbers from the last plan that was pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2003.

Rigby said both plans meet the total-variance allotment with approximately 6.8 percent variance. A plan is allowed a 10-percent variance from the ideal ward size.

The statistics for voting age population in the plan prepared by Holland and Rigby are as follows:

• Ward 1: 69 percent black, 28 percent white

• Ward 2: 97 percent black, .95 percent white

• Ward 3: 20 percent black, 77 percent white

• Ward 4: 70 percent black, 28 percent white

• Ward 5: 45 percent black, 51 percent white

• Ward 6: 29 percent black, 68 percent white

The statistics for the voting age population for the alternate plan are as follows:

• Ward 1: 69 percent black, 29 percent white

• Ward 2: 91 percent black, 7 percent white

• Ward 3: 19 percent black, 78 percent white

• Ward 4: 69 percent black, 28 percent white

• Ward 5: 63 percent black, 33 percent white

• Ward 6: 21 percent black, 76 percent white

The ward maps are on display in Natchez City Hall. Tonight’s meeting will at 6 in the Natchez City Council Chambers.

Natchez City Attorney Everett Sanders has said he would like to have the plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice by Nov. 16. He has also said the department generally likes 60 days to review submissions, but he will ask for expedited review in order to have the plan implemented before election qualifying begins Jan. 1.