Hearing on city’s redistricting plan draws little public comment

Published 3:01 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Tommie Cardin, an attorney with Butler Snow and a member of its regulatory and government group, walked those at Tuesday’s meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen through a proposed redistricting plan during a public hearing.

“The purpose of the public hearing is to receive public input about the ward boundaries. It is not intended to be a question and answer session with the board. The board is not taking any action tonight,” Cardin said as he opened the hearing.

He presented an overview of the proposed plan.

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“The city’s population is 14,520,” according to the 2020 census, Cardin said. “Six perfect-sized wards would have a population of 2,420 each. The U.S. Supreme Court has held you don’t have to hit that number perfectly, just plus or minus 5 percent in each ward, which would make your deviation less than 10 percent.”

At its current ward numbers, the city is at 14.63 percent deviation, which requires redistricting because the deviation to the current census numbers is greater than 10 percent, Cardin said.

Current population of each ward is:

• Ward 1, represented by Valencia Hall, 2,367.

• Ward 2, represented by Billie Joe Frazier, 2,247.

• Ward 3, represented by Sarah Carter Smith, 2,601.

• Ward 4, represented by Felicia Bridgewater-Irving, 2,435.

• Ward 5, represented by Ben Davis, 2,271.

• Ward 6, represented by Dan Dillard, 2,599.

Cardin said Wards 2 and 5 need to gain population, Wards 3 and 6 are overpopulated at present, Ward 1 needs to gain “a little” population and Ward 4 is “just about ideal.”

“It’s difficult to go through this process and not effect all ward lines,” Cardin said.

He said he and his team visited with each individual board member and received their input about the geography and characteristics of the ward.

In making changes, he said each ward is contiguous and as compact as possible, follow natural geographic boundaries where possible, as well as keeps “census blocks,” which are used by the census bureau in its count, intact, meaning not split a census block between different wards. In the current districting, two census blocks were split, and the proposed plan fixes that, he said.

The total variance or deviation under the proposed plan would be 6.81 percent, “which is well below the maximum deviation,” Cardin said.

In the proposed plan, population would be:

• Ward 1, 2,427 residents.

• Ward 2, 2,417 residents.

• Ward 3, 2,484 residents.

• Ward 4, 2,435 residents.

• Ward 5, 2,438 residents.

• Ward 6, 2,319 residents.

Only three people commented at the hearing. Joyce Arceneaux Mathis and Philip West complimented Cardin for his work on the redistricting plan. The Rev. Marcus Archer, whose Crosspoint Church serves as a voting precinct, asked if the would change voting precincts, to which the answer was yes.

The Board of Aldermen are expected to discuss the plan at its next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 11 a.m. in the Council Chambers, 115 S. Pearl St.