P C Supervisors

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Supervisors await help to correct district deviation

By Billy Davis

The buzzword is “deviation.”

U.S. Census figures show Panola County’s population grew so fast in District 4, at the same time people were leaving District 2, that the populations are now off-balance.

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Department of Justice voting rules require that political boundaries maintain equal populations, a rule referred to as a one-man, one-vote policy.

The individual districts should deviate no more than 10 percent to avoid federal scrutiny, Oxford planner Mike Slaughter told supervisors in recent months, when census figures were pending.

Slaughter’s Oxford firm, Slaughter and Associates, was hired as a redistricting consultant for Panola County government, and locally he is also working with the City of Batesville and South Panola Schools.

Slaughter, with census figures in hand on February 14, said the five districts together show a deviation of 17.62 percent.

2010 census figures show 7,723 people live in District 4 and 6,500 live in District 2, after District 2 lost six percent, or 441 people, since 2000. District 4 gained 782 people, an 11-percent jump.

Census figures also show a second district, District 5, gained 116 people since 2000, while Districts 1, 2 and 3 showed a total loss of 896 people.

Panola County’s total population is estimated to be 34,707, an increase of 443, or 1.26 percent, since 2000.

The deviation means supervisors must move boundary lines in coming weeks, an undertaking they had hoped to avoid during an election year.

District 4 borders District 3 to the west, in the Courtland area, and District 5 to the northwest near Batesville.

 A smaller portion of District 1 borders District 4 in the Terza community east of Batesville.

To move the county’s deviation below the 10-percent mark, Slaughter agreed last week to return in coming days with a suggested plan to move boundary lines.   

Supervisors have not instructed Slaughter on where they want the lines drawn, said District 4 Supervisor Kelly Morris, though he expects the district will lose territory.  

“I haven’t been told yet what is coming. I’m still in the dark,” he said.

After the Board of Supervisors approves new boundary lines, the county board will seek public input at a public hearing.   

Supervisors had already viewed preliminary census numbers before the February 14 meeting, which meant they were not surprised to learn of uneven growth in District 4.