City redistricting plan passes with slight majority vote

Published 1:32 pm Thursday, August 17, 2023

The most recent proposed redistricting plan for the City of Brookhaven was approved by a slight majority of the Board of Aldermen this week.

Four aldermen vote for the plan — Shannon Moore (Ward 2), Charles Caston (Ward 3), Jeff Henning (Ward 4), and Fletcher Grice (Ward 5). One abstained — Alderman-at-large Don Underwood said, “I don’t have a dog in this fight.” Two voted “no” — James Magee Jr. (Ward 1) and Andre’ Spiller (Ward 6).

Grice motioned to approve the plan, then Spiller said he would not vote for the plan because he believed the public did not have adequate opportunity to review it.

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“I have some concern about the plan because it was not advertised in the newspaper,” Spiller said.

City Clerk Samantha Melancon — who was in attendance via conference call — and Mayor Joe Cox replied that the notices had published, and the public hearing had been conducted on Aug. 1.

“I don’t understand what the questions are,” Cox said. “We’ve had several meetings.”

Spiller did not respond.

Cox called for a second, provided by Henning. Underwood did not vote, and Magee — also in attendance via conference call — simply voted “no” with no added explanation.

Later in the week, Spiller said another concern he had was that his ward gains a few apartment complexes in the redistricting. The residents of the apartments, as renters, do not represent “true votes,” Spiller said. Property owners have a vested interest in the neighborhood, the ward and its elected leadership, whereas renters may not.

Notices published in The Daily Leader on July 12 and July 19 read, “The City of Brookhaven Mayor and Board will hold a Public Hearing pursuant to all requirements of state and federal laws mandating the City of Brookhaven to redistrict timely after publication of the latest U.S. Decennial Census and prior to the next regularly scheduled general elections within the municipality for the following: Redistricting City Wards. The hearing will commence at 5:30 p.m., on Tuesday, the 1st day of August 2023, in the City Board Room, 301 South First Street in the Lincoln County/Brookhaven Governmental Complex, Brookhaven, MS 39601. s/, City Clerk Samantha Melancon.”

The board also approved a fee of $2,000 to the Lincoln County Circuit Clerk for the purpose of modifying voter rolls. Any registered voter affected by the ward changes will receive notice by mail of his or her new voting ward and polling place.


Adjusted wards

Under the redistricting, the wards will be adjusted as follows:

  • Ward 1 — existing overall population of 1,760; adjusted population of 1,887; voting age population moves from 1,300 to 1,393.
  • Ward 2 — existing overall population of 1,997; adjusted population remains the same; voting age population also remains the same, at 1,442.
  • Ward 3 — existing overall population of 1,681; adjusted population of 1,857; voting age population moves from 1,312 to 1,444.
  • Ward 4 — existing overall population of 2,131; adjusted population of 1,912; voting age population moves from 1,627 to 1,463.
  • Ward 5 — existing overall population of 2,138; adjusted population of 1,994; voting age population moves from 1,720 to 1,606.
  • Ward 6 — existing overall population of 1,967; adjusted population of 2,027; voting age population moves from 1,469 to 1,521.

The racial makeup of the voting age population also must be taken into account for redistricting. The Voting Rights Act mandates that redistricting must demonstrate that changes have neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect. Minority voters must not be “worse off” than they were in the existing distribution.

The following changes will take place under the new plan:

  • Ward 1 — existing: 9.6% white; 86.6% black; 3.8% other; proposed: 12.2% white; 84.1% black; 3.7% other.
  • Ward 2 — existing and proposed remain the same: 16.9% white; 80.2% black; 2.9% other.
  • Ward 3 — existing: 20.7% white; 75.8% black; 3.5% other; proposed: 25.1% white; 71.3% black; 3.7% other.
  • Ward 4 — existing: 91.2% white; 5% black; 3.8% other; proposed: 91.3% white; 5% black; 3.8% other.
  • Ward 5 — existing: 57.7% white; 37.2% black; 5.2% other; proposed: 62.6% white; 32% black; 5.4% other.
  • Ward 6 — existing: 37.8% white; 58.3% black; 3.9% other; proposed: 36.6% white; 59.7% black; 3.7% other.

In each ward, racial population changes at most by a total of 5% of the total voting population in that ward. Citywide, Brookhaven’s voting age population is 41.4% white, 54.7% black and 3.9% other.

View the current ward map and the newly approved map here.