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County objects to changes to voter districts

 

NATCHEZ — Within months of a primary election, the discovery of a muddy political boundary between two of the Adams County Board of Supervisors’ districts by Adams County Election Commissioners may have caused some confusion for voters.

During a regularly scheduled meeting Monday, county resident Jack Blaney addressed the Board of Supervisors about notices the Election Commission sent to 45 Adams County residents on Phillip West and Stardust roads last week, which stated they were moved from District 5 into District 4.

“It seems unjust to change districts a few months before a primary election,” Blaney said, asking the supervisors what is being done to resolve the issue.

County officials said the change would not take effect during this election season and reverse notices would be sent out later to the same residents.

Election commission chairman, Larry Gardner said the notices were an attempt to correct an issue that had been discovered earlier this year when creating an online Geoportal — a digital map drawn based on the legal description of political boundaries that the voters and candidates could use for reference during the election season.

After the map had been posted, however, Gardner said an incumbent supervisor noted something off about the political boundary between Districts 4 and 5 on the Geoportal.

The last political boundary approved in 2001 by the U.S. Department of Justice included a written description and a physical map that did not quite match up, Gardner said.

The maps show residents on Phillip West and Stardust roads belong to District 5. However, the legal description divided the roads between Districts 4 and 5.

“An artist’s rendition of a map doesn’t necessarily correlate with geographical boundaries,” Gardener said.

The 2001 map and legal descriptions also included a number of other inaccuracies as roads and geographical features were moved or altered over the past two decades, which the Election Commission attempted to revise, Gardener said.

Adams County Attorney Scott Slover said he had spoken to the Mississippi Attorney General in an effort to resolve the issue before the primary election in August. The attorney general, Slover said, advised the boundaries should be kept as they were for the last election.

Slover said the supervisors could not legally adjust the district boundaries a month before the qualification deadline for an upcoming election, making it too late in the game to correct an issue that has existed since the map and physical description were approved in 2001.

Slover said it is likely possible the political boundaries would be revised in 2020 anyway once the Adams County census is completed to ensure the population of voters is equally distributed between districts.