Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 30, 2011

By John Howell

Panola supervisors meeting Monday afternoon unanimously approved a proposed redistricting plan that will slightly alter boundaries between Districts One and Two, One and Four and Three and Four to equalize districts based on 2010 Census data.

Meeting with supervisors, Board Attorney Bill McKenzie, County Administrator Kellie Magee and Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock was attorney Leslie Scott of the Butler Snow law firm, hired by the county to facilitate redistricting compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Scott said that following the board’s Monday approval, the county’s plan would be immediately submitted to the U. S. Department of Justice with a request for expedited approval.

Scott also said that she had been in contact with the plaintiff’s attorney for a lawsuit filed by the NAACP against Panola and other counties seeking to suspend the March 1 qualifying deadline for supervisor candidates and with urban planning consultant Mike Slaughter of Slaughter and Associates, PLC. Slaughter’s firm drew the lines creating the districts.

“Do you look at this as, if we get a plan approved by Justice, … is the court going to order a re-qualifying or give some more time to re-qualify based on the new lines if somebody wants to?” McKenzie asked Scott.

“I do,” she replied. “Because if you don’t I think invariably you would have the potential of someone saying, ‘I might would have run if I had …”

“‘If I had known that (the location of the new district lines, once approved), I was going to be a candidate,” McKenzie said, completing the thought.

 “The worst thing I can see is if these people or somebody else get elected and have to do it again in six months,” McKenzie added, “because of some line; it’s just not fair to anybody.”

Twenty candidates, including all five incumbent supervisors, qualified by the March 1 deadline for the county’s five seats.

“If there’s a way to make all this work and resolve that lawsuit at the same time, … we’re working on that,” Scott said.

By adopting the redistricting plan Monday, supervisors beat March 31, described in an earlier supervisors’ meeting by a Butler Snow attorney as the “drop dead date if you back up from the August primary.”