Census results create chaos for Itawamba County board

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

The results of last year’s census have arrived in the hands of Itawamba County’s supervisors and have them a bit concerned.

According to the 2010 census results, there is a 15.98 percent population deviation among the county’s five districts. Since federal law mandates population deviations can be no greater than 10 percent in order to maintain fairness in voting, there is a strong possibility the county will have to redraw its district lines.

The board was less than enthusiastic about the change.

“This won’t be an easy task,” said Itawamba County Board of Supervisors President Danny Holley. “It’s something we need to address, though, because it’s not going to go away.”

According to the results of the 2010 census, District 2, which covers the Mantachie area, has grown tremendously within the past decade and upset the balance between districts somewhat. Since the year 2000, the district has added approximately 304 new residents, a growth of about 17 percent. The total number of people counted in the area is 5,108, making it the most populated of the county’s five districts.

Dropping to nearly half the growth, District 3 – encompassing Dorsey, Cardsville, Evergreen and Carolina – added a total of 135 residents over the past 10 years, placing it second in total growth for the area. Board attorney Bo Russell said most of newcomers in this area are likely transients from Lee County.

“Your growth is on the border of Lee County,” Russell said. “Not only are people moving out of Tupelo, but people are just moving out further and further.”

Trailing the top two districts in growth are District 4 with 95 new residents, District 1 with 36 new residents and District 5, which actually lost 79 residents.

Looking at the numbers, one thing is very apparent: The west side of Itawamba County is far outpacing the east in growth. This creates a definite dilemma for the county’s supervisors.

“You have to have equal representation,” Russell said. “The problem is going to be that one of the districts is likely going to have to come across the river.”

Russell said most counties have a hub. For instance, in Lee County, all the districts come into Tupelo. Because district lines are often divided by natural landmarks like the Tenn-Tom Waterway, Itawamba County has no such hub. Russell said that’s likely to change in a decade or two.

“In 10 or 20 years from now, Mantachie will probably be the hub,” Russell said.

Adding to the challenges facing the board, district lines will need to be redrawn or at least planned for redrawing prior to the upcoming election, if possible. Because candidates can only qualify for positions within the districts in which they live, redrawing district lines after an election means possibly having to hold another. The board hopes to avoid this if at all possible. If not, the board is hoping to be granted some form of exception to the rule because of the proximity of the election.

“We’re hoping there’s a way to have the election as it is,” said County Administrator Gary Franks. “There’s no feasible way we can have this done before the final election.”

Supervisors will be meeting later with members of Three Rivers Planning and Development Council, which has offered to advise in the possible redistricting of the county.

Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing adam.armour@journalinc.com or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.
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