By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The city’s seven wards will change next year to reflect Tupelo’s changing population and, as a result, could push some residents – and possibly some City Council members – outside their current political boundaries.
Tupelo must redraw its ward lines to incorporate new data from the 2010 Census, which showed a net gain of 335 people to the city as well as a shift in its demographics. The city also gained some 1,245 new households on Sept. 2 as a result of its long-fought annexation of six different areas.
A new map could be available by the end of the year, but must meet City Council approval and the authorization of the U.S. Justice Department before becoming official.
All the wards “will change somewhat, because you want an equal amount of people in each ward to have the same voting power,” said City Clerk Kim Hanna. “We’re expecting to see a lot of shifting.”
The city also must preserve its two minority districts, which currently are Ward 4 and Ward 7.
Three Rivers Planning and Development District has been tasked with drawing the new ward map. It’s a free service, said its executive director, Randy Kelley.
Kelley said his agency makes every effort to keep council members within their existing wards but that it’s not a guarantee.
The new map must be ready in time for January’s qualifying deadline so those entering the City Council political races know in which wards they’ll run.
The election is scheduled for May.
If for some reason the new map doesn’t meet council or Justice Department approval by January, the city can seek permission to temporarily assign the newly annexed areas to existing wards, said city attorney Guy Mitchell.
The existing ward lines would then remain in place until the 2017 election.
Mitchell said that scenario is unlikely to happen and feels confident the new map will meet approval in time to take effect in 2013.