Published 12:00 am Friday, July 16, 2010

Census will meet elections in 2011

By Billy Davis

Panola County elections in 2011 will coincide with an important, required task: the redistricting of the five county districts, the Board of Supervisors learned Monday.

Professional planner Mike Slaughter, using a PowerPoint presentation, described the coming task, which he said supervisors must undertake early next year.

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Slaughter, who heads Slaughter and Associates in Oxford, was pitching his office as a consultant for the process.

Supervisors did not act on the proposal Monday, though they’re expected to do so soon.

“We want to be ready at the earliest possible time,” Board President Gary Thompson told his colleagues.

The coming redistricting will follow the current U.S. Census count. A county’s district lines are often moved, after census numbers are tallied, to reflect any shifts in the population.

In all five districts, the population should show an accepted swing of no more than 10 percent, Slaughter explained.  

The federal government should release census figures in February. Panola County has a March 11 qualifying date for candidates, Slaughter explained.

The 2000 U.S. Census showed 34,272 residents in Panola County, a 14-percent jump of 4,278 people from census figures obtained in 1990.

Population growth in Panola County was estimated to be 2.8 percent in 2009, an increase of fewer than 1,000 people.

“Every 20 years, Panola County is blessed with the census and the election at the same time,” Bill McKenzie, the board attorney, told supervisors.

McKenzie credited late Supervisor Robert Avant for using contacts in Washington, D.C. to speed up the process in 1990.

To prepare for next year’s figures, supervisors need to hire a firm then advertise for a public hearing this fall, McKenzie told the board.

If the districts grew or shrank by more than 10 percent since 2000, then the county must “reshuffle the deck,” the board attorney said.