Will Adams County have to redistrict? Supervisors await census data to tell

Published 6:15 pm Monday, January 3, 2022

NATCHEZ — Adams County Supervisors are awaiting data from the 2020 census to soon determine whether district lines will have to be redrawn.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Adams County decreased from 32,297 in April 2010 to 29,538 in April 2020 and the population of Natchez decreased from 15,792 to 14,520 with a response rate of 59.6%.

The census bureau also estimates Adams County’s population may have decreased by 0.4% between April 2020 and July 2021. However, supervisors are still waiting on a full breakdown of the population by district to determine whether redistricting will be necessary by law.

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The law requires the county to redistrict if there is more than a 10% variance in the voter population among each of the five districts. Even with a population decline of 2,759 people in the past decade, the county may not have to redistrict if the population decrease is spread evenly across the districts with less than a 10% variance.

Adams County Election Commissioner Larry Gardner said he believes the county did not have to redistrict after the 2010 census because “the districts were still within that 10% margin.”

Prior census numbers show Adams County’s population decreased to 32,297 in 2010 from 34,340 in 2000.

When asked whether he thinks the county may have to redistrict, Gardner said, “It looks like it on the surface based on the number of registered voters we have. District 2 has the most registered voters and District 3 has the least with a big discrepancy between the two. A large part of that may be because we’ve had a lot of new homes built in the Beau Pre area.”

However, Gardner said whether redistricting is required would be determined by the number of people of legal voting age living in each district and not the number of people registered to vote, which is the number he based his guess on.

If the county does have to redistrict, the officials said they would have to begin that process soon.

“If we have to redistrict, we need to get on top of it as soon as possible,” Supervisor Warren Gaines said during Monday’s meeting.

The supervisors said they would first have to hire a redistricting company to come up with the proposed maps then and issue a public notice and hold public hearings before they can be approved. Supervisor Angela Hutchins said they should know by the next board meeting whether redistricting would be necessary.

In other matters during Monday’s meeting of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, the board unanimously adopted COVID-19 precautions for employees based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which states that those who test positive should isolate themselves for a minimum of five days and wear a mask around others for an additional five days.

However, Supervisors Ricky Gray expressed concerns about reducing the isolation period from 10 days to five.

“It seems like every time we turn around it changes,” Gray said. “We have employees with underlying health conditions and we’re telling people who have COVID that they can wear a mask and come two work after five days instead of 10.”

Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford also informed supervisors that COVID-19 transmission in the community was spreading rapidly.

According to data from the CDC, Adams County currently has a high rate of community-level COVID-19 transmission with 74 new cases reported within seven days ending Dec. 29 and a positivity rate of 23.8%.

Bradford said the Adams County safe room has hosted free COVID-19 screenings and of 80 people tested, half of them tested positive with COVID-19.

“Omicron is spreading faster than Delta,” he said. “We’re trying not to do another mask mandate, but if our numbers continue rising, I may come back to the board with a mask requirement for county buildings to keep our employees safe.”