More than 80 residents affected by redistricting error ahead of Natchez municipal election

Published 12:44 pm Thursday, April 4, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Approximately 79 registered voters of the city’s Ward 1 and five in Ward 4 were sent cards from the county election commission that listed the incorrect polling place, said Adams County Election Commissioner Larry Gardner.

That incorrect information was the result of the city’s redistricting, which was completed in 2022. The redistricting was required because of information in the 2020 U.S. Census that showed population shifts in some of the city’s wards.

Those 84 individuals were sent a letter on March 26 telling them about the error and directing them to the proper voting location for the April 9 municipal primary, Gardner said.

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Gardner said a supplemental polling book listing those individuals at the correct precinct has been created. Should the voters show up at the incorrect polling place, election workers will direct them to where they should go vote, he said.

“The firm the city hired to handle the redistricting” sent incorrect information to the county’s election commission, he said.

Law firm Butler Snow was hired by the city to handle the technicalities of redistricting.

Further, he said the firm used Google Maps, which does not always have the correct street names.

“Some of the streets they sent us don’t exist. Some of the street names are wrong. Why they used Google Maps instead of our Geo Portal, I don’t know,” Gardner said.

“Someone in Jackson sat on this information too long. When we received it, there were a number of issues, which isn’t uncommon when you are moving a bunch of people around. It creates issues,” he said.

The election commission received the information needed to correct the city poll list during the time it was deep in the work of setting up for the federal presidential primary election in March, work which took priority Gardner said.

He said there was nothing nefarious about the handling of the election information on the city’s part.

“No, not at all. All of this stuff takes time. Somebody in Jackson sat on it for the longest. And you’ve got to remember, the county had redistricting, too, so we had to have that ready before the federal presidential primary, too,” Gardner said.

He did say he wishes the city would change its charge to hold municipal elections in years when most municipalities hold elections, which is next year.

“Because of the city’s special charter, its elections are this year. If they would change it to next year when others have their elections, those would be the only elections we would have to deal with in the year,” he said.

The city had to change the date its municipal primary was scheduled to take place to April 9 — next Tuesday — because a runoff was necessary in the federal presidential primary on April 2.

“That would have caused a real problem, two different elections running at different precincts at the same time?” he said.