Lee to pay $25,000 to avoid election flap

By Emily Le Coz / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Lee County will spend roughly $25,000 to skirt a potential challenge over its upcoming election cycle.
At issue is a pair of unfortunately placed deadlines facing each of Mississippi’s 82 counties: Candidates for three countywide elections must qualify by March 1 while the U.S. Census Bureau must release its decennial population counts by April 1.
Governmental entities use the census data to redraw their political districts, a task that should be completed before the next election cycle begins.
In this case, it won’t happen unless the Legislature postpones the start of the upcoming election cycle or the Census Bureau releases its numbers early.
No one knows whether either of those scenarios will occur. And counties that redraw districts after the qualifying deadline could face challenges over the elections, said Chris Watson, a planner with Oxford-based Watson amp& Bridge.
Watson spoke before the Lee County Board of Supervisors on Monday. He told the group it’s possible to use 2009 census estimates and other available data to redraw district lines before March 1. If the decennial numbers arrive before then, the county can quickly readjust if needed.
At the very least, Watson said, the process will show a good-faith effort on Lee County’s part, which could be enough to shield it from a potential challenge.
The three countywide elections to be held this upcoming year are for supervisors, justice court judges and constables.
The board unanimously hired Watson to prepare the plan, which will evenly redistribute the county’s population among the five political districts. It also will maintain its one minority district.
Watson’s efforts will cost between $20,000 to $25,000, he said.
The state and its municipalities also must redraw their political lines based on new population counts, but without fast-approaching elections, they do not face the same time scramble.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.