OKTIBBEHA COUNTY — Oktibbeha County has narrowed the decision down to two plans for redistricting the county.
Oktibbeha County’s population stands at 51,728, which is up roughly 4,000 residents since 2010, according to the 2020 census. Even though the population overall has risen, each district has not increased evenly, meaning the county must redraw its district lines.
After a few proposed plans from Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Geographic Information Systems Director Toby Sanford over the past few months, the Oktibbeha County board of supervisors has chosen two plans for the public and will let residents choose which one they prefer at a public hearing Feb. 21.
Sanford presented plans 1A and 1B at Monday’s work session, both of which are identical except for one area in the county still under debate.
The plans would move the area between Pollard Road and Lynn Lane, ending at Industrial Road from District 4 into District 1, affecting approximately 700 people. The Starkville Sportsplex would stay in District 4 to maintain that voting precinct, but Sanford said this will allow for the Oktibbeha County Community Safe Room to serve as a new precinct.
“Ten years ago, District 4 could not afford to give up 700 people without somewhere giving back 700 people,” Sanford said. “This time it does work. This would move the area out of 4 into 5. The boundary line becomes Lynn Lane.”
All areas south of Highway 182 including Tomlinson Drive, Guest Drive and Clements Avenue would move out of District 1 into 3, cleaning up the district line. This neighborhood is currently split between districts, causing unneeded confusion for residents, Sanford said.
“There have been votes that have been tossed out from this area because something is wrong, and they were saying they were in the wrong apartment building because it would really come down to which building you were in if you were in District 3 or 1,” Sanford said. “If you messed up, then sometimes the votes got thrown out.”
A few other district lines would be redrawn creating a cleaner overall layout, said Sanford, but hardly any people live in these areas so it would not affect many residents.
The area of Mississippi State University’s campus west of George Perry Street would move from District 2 to District 3, which includes roughly 700 residents — all students. The area between Catherine Drive and Mae Street would move from District 2 to 3 as well.
Rolling Hills is the only differing factor between the two plans. Currently the Rolling Hills neighborhood is split between Districts 2 and 3. Plan 1A would put the neighborhood into District 2, while plan 1B would put it into District 3.
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said he does not think it would be fair for him to take in 700 students but take away residents that live in the Rolling Hills area, preferring plan 1B. He said he wants to choose the plan that makes sure people’s votes count and cleans up district lines.
“If you’re going to ask me to accept 700 and something people, you’ve got to give me something else,” Howard said. “You can’t just dump that many people and then take people away.”
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer, who previously told The Dispatch he did not want Rolling Hills to move out of his district, said he wants the county residents to decide which plan they prefer, and if they choose plan 1B, he understands Rolling Hills moving to District 3 is the best for the county.
“Whatever I want is whatever is best for the people,” Trainer said. “I think we should have a public hearing and let them decide.”
Oktibbeha County Election Deputy Clerk Sheryl Elmore, who oversees all voter registration and the election process, mentioned that Oktibbeha County has the highest number of district and precinct splits of any county in the state, and plan 1B would clean up district lines.
“I like plan 1B,” Elmore said. “It cleans the lines up well.”
The public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 21 in the Oktibbeha County chancery courtroom.