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School board lines see little change

The Lincoln County School Board has approved a redistricting plan for school board voting districts ahead of a November election that will see two board seats up for grabs.

     With qualifying for the open seats beginning in a month, the board’s approval of new voting lines is timely.

     Candidates may qualify for seats representing District One and District Two from Aug. 8 until Sept. 7, with the final election on Nov. 6 alongside federal elections. To qualify, candidates must have 50 signatures from voters within the district they would represent.

     The new voting lines do not affect where students attend school. They only determine which school board seats district residents vote on.

     Voters and potential candidates won’t have a drastically altered map to navigate this fall. New voting lines bring minimal changes, said Superintendent Terry Brister and school board members.

     “Most of the districts stayed just about the same,” said Jack Case, board president. “Some change, but not enough to hurt anybody.”

     District Three took over what had been District One’s northwest corner. District Three’s western border shrunk a little, surrendering some territory to District Four.

     The boundary separating districts Four and Five received minor tweaks.

     In northern Lincoln County, District Five saw no apparent change.

     At their March 19 school board meeting, district leaders scheduled a public hearing. No members of the public attended the hearing, held on March 28.

     At a called meeting last week, board members approved the redistricting plan and the district’s budget.

     Government entities must redistrict following every once-a-decade census to ensure the population remains distributed equally between voting districts.

     “It was past time for us to redistrict,” Brister said. “We were informed it was time, and we turned it over to our attorneys.”

     The board paid the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District $15,000 to draw up new district lines with roughly equivalent populations.

     According to U.S. Census statistics provided by the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District, the ideal population for each district is 3,153 people.

     Several districts missed or exceeded the ideal by several hundred people or more prior to the creation of updated voting lines.

     No minority majority districts exist under the original map or the revised plan. Distribution of black population appears to make a minority district unfeasible, according to school officials.

     Board members accepted the first plan offered to them and didn’t have any disagreements about it, Case said.

     “When they got through with it, it worked out real well,” Case said.

     District One, currently held by Kay Coon, and District Two, currently represented by Stacey Newell, will appear on November’s ballot.

     Coon offered a tentative commitment to seek re-election when contacted about the matter.

     “Yes, I think so,” Coon said about her campaign plans. “If I’m feeling well. Mr. Brister has some things he wants to finish up.”

     Coon doesn’t feel running under altered lines will present any challenges.

     “It was basically almost like it was,” Coon said. “There weren’t many changes.”

     Newell did not return phone calls seeking comment. He serves as secretary of the board.

     Case, of District Four, Ricky Welch, of District Three, and Michael Posey, of District Five, will not face elections this year.