A public hearing on Madison County's redistricting is set for Monday.
A public hearing on Madison County's redistricting is set for Monday.
Under one redistricting scenario Madison County supervisors will consider on Monday at a public hearing, District 3 Supervisor D.I. Smith could face Billy Redd, who under the old lines is currently qualified in District 2.

Candidates like Redd and David M. Buchanan say their situation is a good example of why Madison County shouldn't redistrict before the upcoming elections.

Both qualified for specific races, but depending of which redistricting map is approved on Monday, they would be moved to a completely different district and potentially a new race against completely different opponents.

The Madison County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposed redistricting maps Monday, March 21 at 9 a.m. in their meeting room on the first floor of the Madison County Administration Building in Canton.

Redistricting is required following the 2010 Census in order for each of the Madison County's five districts to have similar populations and adhere to the "one man one vote" rule.

All redistricting maps must ultimately be approved by the Department of Justice.

The county released three proposed maps Tuesday which can be downloaded from the county's web site at www.madison-co.com or viewed outside their meeting room on large display boards or by clicking here.

Some residents are complaining that a change this close to elections will confuse voters who also stand the possibility of being placed in different districts.

Some are going even further, saying the redrawn lines are an attempt to manipulate the elections.

Meanwhile, the city of Madison has filed a motion to intervene, joining with the Madison County Republican Executive Committee in their objection to redistricting before this year's elections.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has indicated his office will defend the original qualifying deadline established by the state Legislature.

The county has a hearing with the U.S. District Court April 1 in an attempt to reopen qualifying for county elections until June 1. If they fail, the elections must be held using the old district lines.

Jan Schaefer, a spokesperson for Attorney General Jim Hood, said in an e-mail that 20 years ago local governments in Mississippi faced similar difficulties in redistricting shortly after the release of census data.

"That resulted in several federal court decisions which held that local candidates were not required to run under newly drawn district lines. In the Madison County Board's lawsuit, as well as those filed in other Mississippi counties, we intend to bring those cases to the federal court's attention in defense of the constitutionality of the candidate qualifying deadline established by the Mississippi Legislature."

Buchanan qualified to run against District 4 incumbent Karl Banks, while Redd qualified for the District 2 seat being left open by incumbent Tim Johnson, who said he would not seek re-election.

In one of the three proposals, Buchanan would be moved to District 5 where Paul Griffin is an incumbent and Redd would be moved to District 3 where D.I. Smith is an incumbent.

Both men say they are uncertain what they will do if they are ultimately moved out of their current districts, but they are holding out hope that the plan to redistrict before the upcoming election won't come to fruition.

"I think we need to run on the current district lines, then, once the new board gets in place let them re-draw the lines," Buchanan said. "Then the voting public can be educated about the new lines and the need for these changes."

Some have questioned the cost of a special election that may be required in 2012 after redistricting, but Buchanan and others note the county will be taking part in a presidential election and the races can be run on those ballots at little extra charge.

Redd said the proposed maps are off base to begin with. He notes that in all three proposals District 2 faces "drastic changes," but due to its existing population should have gone largely unchanged.

"District 2 is the only district that didn't need to be changed," Redd said. "It was within a couple hundred people of already being the correct size.

"You're taking a very compact district that was already the right size and drastically, drastically changing it," he added.

District 3's D.I. Smith agreed with Redd, saying he wants a plan that moves the least number of people and says one proposal that seems to be the favorite of the majority of the board shifts way to many residents around.

"In District 3's case you've got 3,500 people that you have to put in some other district, but do you have to move 10,000 or 15,000 in order to do that?" Smith asked.

"One of the goals and guidelines that we published in the resolution was to move the minimum number of people necessary to get within the variance."

Buchanan accused Banks and others on the board of using redistricting to their political advantage, saying they waited to see who their potential challengers were then decided to try and redistrict before the election.

"All this tells me is that this is an ongoing concerted effort to design districts that will ensure Karl Banks' re-electability," Buchanan said.

Banks denied such talk noting that two other District 4 candidates (Robert Maloney and Theresa Mayfield) were not impacted in the proposed redistricting and noted that Buchanan lives on the extreme eastern edge of District 4's current boundaries.

Banks, the board's longest serving supervisor, said he's been through the redistricting process four times and there are always conspiracy theories and hurt feelings, but said it is something the county is required to do.

"People can always assume things," Banks said. "I've been through all this before, but basically what we're trying to do is draw good lines.

"None of these three plans was my top choice," he added. "Now it's going to take three to four votes to make a decision on which plan to use."

It is uncertain if the majority of the board will agree on one of the proposals following the hearing, but County Attorney Eric Hamer said time is a factor.

With the April 1 court date with the U.S. District Court looming, their standing would improve if an approved plan could be sent to the Department of Justice for approval.

"I think having a plan that they can look to and actually see what we're trying to accomplish will be instructive and helpful to the court," Hamer said.

The public hearing is scheduled before the regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors.