Controversy over redistricting public hearing process - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Controversy over redistricting public hearing process

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JACKSON, MS (WLBT) – Controversy Tuesday night at a Hinds County Public Hearing on redistricting where residents had several complaints about the process.

At issue, the meeting itself, who is redrawing the lines and where are the current maps.

Hinds County residents filled the Board of Supervisors chambers hoping to find out about new redistricting lines.

No maps of the five districts were on display.

County officials and Derrick Johnson, the consultant hired to redraw lines, said the meeting was to gather input from the public.

Many were upset that there was little notification of the hearing and no maps for guidance.

"We walk in this meeting they we don't have any maps. We don't have anything," Hinds County Republican Executive Committee member Pete Perry said. "We don't have any information and there wasn't any notification put out about the meeting except maybe in the Jackson Advocate."

Also at issue, is the hiring of Johnson to redraw the lines.

His company was paid $40,000.00 by Hinds County, twice the amount paid by Madison and Rankin counties for their redistricting.

"What is your experience and have you done this before?" Hinds County resident Randy May asked Johnson.

"Yes, I have done this before," Johnson answered. "The board of supervisors reviewed my qualifications and as a result of that, I was selected."

"Are you also the Derrick Johnson that is the president of the NAACP in Mississippi?" May inquired.

"I am," Johnson replied.

"Is that not a conflict of interest?" May asked.

"It is not," Johnson answered.

"What if we picked somebody from the Ku Klux Klan to do this plan? Jackson resident and former Hinds County Supervisor Joe Lauderdale asked. "What would the majority of citizens say?"

The board has until March 1 to come up with plans unless they file for an extension.

Otherwise candidates seeking office would have to use current district lines.

"Is this the only time we will have public input or will we have public input after the proposed districts have been redrawn?" Leslie Morton of Jackson asked.

Johnson told the audience that the county has a 34% deviation in population, but residents complained that they would not determine those shifts without a visual aid.

They were directed to the Hinds County web site.

"You can not produce maps, if no maps have been drawn. The current district lines are still the current district lines. The only difference is the census data has come out and it said that in some districts you have more population than before, or you have less population," said Johnson following the meeting.

"We're going to go back now that we've heard from the people and do exactly what they asked and that is to make sure that we try to draw those lines and present several maps," said Hinds County Board of Supervisors President George Smith.

Smith said the board plans to meet Monday to discuss applying for an extension and setting another public hearing on redistricting.

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