By Russell Hood The Webster Progress-Times
A proposed redistricting plan for the city approved by the Board of Aldermen last week awaits preclearance or rejection by the U.S. Department of Justice. Eupora aldermen adopted “Plan 1” and a legal description of the proposed new ward boundaries by a unanimous vote April 2 following a public hearing. Hank Flowers (Ward 4) made the motion to adopt the plan and Billy Brister (Ward 2) seconded. Redistricting is necessary to bring each ward closer to an ideal population in order to comply with the “one-man, one-vote” section of the Voting Rights Act in future elections. The 2010 Census showed Eupora’s population at 2,280, making the ideal population of each of the four wards 570. The city wards now have an overall deviation of 30.53 percent from the ideal population. The new plans drops the deviation to only 3.33 percent. The redistricting process began Feb. 28, when Mayor Tommy Lott and three aldermen had a work session with Toby Sanford, GIS manager/ senior analyst with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District. He explained the percentages that must be used as benchmarks for redistricting, and the city officials suggested various ward line shifts to meet those goals. On March 5, Sanford presented redistricting information to the full board based on discussion at the work session. Aldermen voted then to proceed with the new proposed ward lines as presented and set the public hearing. Public Hearing Sanford and assistant Dave Alexander reviewed ward demographics and a map of the new ward lines during last week’s hearing for public comments. The differences in the population between the least populous and the most populous wards must not exceed 10 percent of the ideal population for all wards. The plan must also ensure fair and effective representation of all minority groups residing in the city. Wards 1 and 4 remain majority-black districts, with a black voting age population of 55 and 57.8 percent, respectively. Ward Populations Under the proposal, each ward’s total population and percentage deviation from the ideal population is: • Ward 1: 580 (1.75 percent) • Ward 2: 561 (-1.58 percent) • Ward 3: 569 (-0.18 percent) • Ward 4: 570 (0 percent, or perfect) “We tried to make all boundaries as contiguous as possible and abide by the Voting Rights Act,” Sanford said. Attending the hearing were Delia Shurden, Cherraye Oats and Courtney Oats, with Shurden and Courtney Oats asking the only questions but making no negative comments. Responding to a question, Sanford said Ward 2’s boundaries were redrawn to have the least population because that ward has had the highest growth. Ward 1, he noted, has lost the most population over the last 20 years and its boundaries were redrawn to have a population over the ideal. “I think it’s a great plan,” Sanford said. “It made your boundaries look better than they were before.” Lott said, “It all looks good. We still have a pretty good balance here.” Last month, the city approved a contract with the GTPDD at a total cost of $3,500. The contract includes all filings with the Justice Department and related redistricting work.