Judge rules in Itawamba's favor on district lines

By ALISHA HOLDER WILSON
Managing Editor

The possibility of redistricting parts of Itawamba County was put to an end within a matter of hours last week as plaintiffs had their day in court.

Attorneys for Charles Moore and George E. “Jack” Brown presented witnesses and exhibits Thursday morning in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen before Chief Judge Glen Davidson and were unsuccessful in proving their contention that the districts violated the U.S. Constitution.

Moore and Brown stated they represented a class of registered voters and future registered voters in Districts 2 and 3 in Itawamba County and argued the district plan violated the principle of the one man, one vote intended by the U.S. Constitution and reaffirmed by the 1965 Voting Rights Act because it concentrates voting strength on the east side of the Tennessee-Tombigbee River in three districts, which include portions of Fulton.

Testifying along with Brown and Moore were District 2 school board member Jackie Nichols and District 2 supervisor John Marvin Smith.

Moore and Brown stated they were the only two named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and testified, however, they were doing this on behalf of others.

After being questioned by board of supervisors attorney Bo Russell and ordered by the judge, Moore testified under oath revealing others supporting the case were Jerry Wilburn, Jerry Lyles, Joe Wilburn, Jackie Nichols, John Marvin Smith, Joe Hardin, Tony Adams, Neal Ellis and Lyndon Funderburk.

Moore and Brown were also found not to be the two financially supporting the lawsuit but did not specify who was.

“Everyone admitted the deviation was 9.38 percent,” Russell said. “The law understands you can't have perfectly uniform districts population-wise. It says you can have a deviation of 10 percent or less and that is considered minor.

“If it's considered minor, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove there was some type of harmful discrimination. The court said they offered no proof there was such,” Russell said.

Itawamba County's attorneys entered nine exhibits and rested their case, asking the judge to rule on the lawsuit in their favor saying Moore and Brown didn't meet their burden of proof.

The two cases they were using as examples had 90 percent deviation, Russell said.

“To have it perfectly even they were asking that 492 people on the west side of the river be redistricted with people on the east side and proposed those 492 people come from either the Friendship or Ozark communities,” Russell said.

According to Russell, Judge Davidson said as the west side of the river continues to grow in population district lines will more than likely have to cross the river by the time the next census rolls around.

Plaintiffs do have a right to appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans.