Some Oktibbeha County residents may be shifted into new voting districts due to 2020 Census results.
According to the 2020 Census, Oktibbeha County’s population stands at 51,728, up roughly 4,000 residents since the 2010 Census. While the county population has risen, it has not increased evenly across all five districts, meaning the county will have to redraw its district lines in the coming months.
Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Geographic Information Systems Director Toby Sanford presented possible plans to the Oktibbeha County Board of Aldermen at the board’s regular meeting Monday.
“To get your benchmark plan, you take your legal district lines that you’re currently under, and you overlay it on top of your newest census data, which is 2020,” Sanford said. “That tells you how many people live in each district.”
According to data brought forth by Sanford, District 2 in the county has the largest number of residents with 11,362, while Districts 3 and 4 have the lowest numbers with 9,844 and 9,836, respectively.
In order to determine if county lines need to be redrawn, Sanford said to take the total population and divide that by the five districts, creating an “ideal number,” and then determine a deviation, which is the difference from that ideal number. The deviation is then multiplied by 100 and divided by the ideal number to get a population percentage. The highest and lowest population percentages are subtracted from each other, and if that number is higher than 10 percent, redistricting is required.
After conducting this math, Sanford said the percentage equated to 14.73 percent, which he said is not very far from 10 percent. In 2010, the county was 22 percent off compared to 2000 numbers.
Because District 2 has the most number of residents and District 5 has the fewest, Sanford suggested moving residents between the two districts. His proposed plan involved moving the Aspen Heights Starkville apartment complex from District 2 where it currently sits into District 5. With this one movement, he said the percentage would shift to 9.11 percent, which is under that 10 percent where the county needs to be.
“You can redraw all five districts if you wanted to, but that wouldn’t be very smart,” Sanford said. “This is easy. This is one movement, one block. It’s a little over 500 people out of 2 into 5, and that gets us to 9.11 percent.”
District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller questioned if this would suffice due to most residents living in this complex being college students who are not registered to vote in Oktibbeha County. Sanford said districts are determined by Census results, not by registered voters.
“Redistricting is the total population,” Sanford said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re registered to vote or not. A baby’s voice has just as much carrying as the oldest person in your district.”
The board decided it will hold a work session to see all possible options for redistricting. The board will meet with Sanford again at 9 a.m. Oct. 14 to discuss other alternatives and see if shifting other districts around would bring the percentage even closer to the ideal number of equal residents per district.
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said he approved of Sanford’s primary plan but would like to see other options before moving forward.
“I think redistricting should happen every 10 years,” Howard said. “… We might end up going with this very plan, but I think a workshop is what we need because the census helps you determine the future and see where things are growing, where things are not growing. One thing about this proposal is that it gets the county in compliance, but it still leaves District 3 out of whack from the others.”
Sanford said the county’s justice court districts must also be redrawn. Because justice court judges are the only judges elected in state elections, their districts must be redetermined every 10 years. Due to population growth, Sanford said the county may need to move to four judges instead of the three it currently has.
Sanford said he would like to see all of the judges and constables in the county at the Oct. 14 work session as well to give their input.
“Before I redistrict anything with the justice court, we want to have a work session with the constables and judges as well because that is theirs,” Sanford said.
Capital improvement bond
Oktibbeha County is proceeding with issuing $10 million worth of bonds.
The board has been discussing issuing bonds over the past few months to fund capital improvements throughout the county.
The board approved an initial intent of the $10 million bonds in September, and residents had until Monday to file a protest with the Chancery Clerk’s office if they did not approve of the transaction.
Because no one filed a protest, the board approved a bond resolution at its meeting Monday, moving forward with issuing the bonds.
Some of the previously discussed projects that these bonds could potentially fund include restoring the Oktibbeha County Lake dam, funding a new county headquarters and repaving roads such as Oktoc Road and Maben Sturgis Road.
Butler Snow Attorney Samuel W. Keyes Jr., who is helping the board with issuing the bonds, said the next step the board needs to take is to notice the sale of the bonds to the public.
“It looks like the deal is there, it’s just a matter of getting it formalized,” Keyes said.