By PAUL SIMS
One official says a plan to redraw Oktibbeha County’s supervisor districts is a good one, while another thinks the proposal dilutes the county’s minority vote.
The public will get a chance to look at and weigh in on the plan today as Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors meet at 5:30 p.m. in the courthouse and hold a public hearing on the subject.
The county’s population grew 11.12 percent over the past 10 years, from 42,902 to 47,671 – a numeric change of 4,769, Census data collected in 2010 shows.
For representation at the county level, Oktibbeha County is divided between five supervisors.
The main growth in supervisor districts took place in districts 1 and 2, District 3 Supervisor and Board President Marvell Howard said.
There are some goals of which officials need remain mindful in their redistricting work, Howard said. These include:
• Maintaining one minority-majority district.
• Keeping districts as compact as possible. U.S. Department of Justice officials don’t “want to see any indication of gerrymandering,” Howard said.
• Holding district population deviation to 10 percent.
Golden Triangle Planning and Development District representatives have “done a good job in hitting all three of the goals,” in their work to redesign district lines, he said.
Howard said that in his mind, county officials have “a good plan to present to the people according to our guidelines.”
But District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer says the county will need adjust its representation to get closer to a 60-percent-white, 40-percent-minority makeup, including black and other non-white people.
By percentage, whites hold the majority at 59.2 percent, or 28,224 people, in the county’s population. Non-whites – including 17,431 blacks – represent the remainder at approximately 40.8 percent and 19,447 in population, figures arrived at by subtracting the white population from the total.
“If you want it to be reflective of the people that live in the county,” officials need to set three majority-white and two majority-non-white districts, Trainer said. The plan as it’s currently drawn “dilutes the minority vote,” he said.
The county’s supervisors are not under the same deadline pressure as state lawmakers are to set district lines ahead of this year’s elections.
In August, Oktibbeha County voters will cast ballots in supervisor races along the same lines which exist today. However, “we’ve got to show a reasonable effort,” Trainer said of the redistricting work.
If Justice officials approve the plan, “then that’s what this county will be like,” Trainer said. If not, “then we’ll have to go back to the drawing board,” he said.