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Secretary of State: Population drop may not cost area a lawmaker

 

Jason Browne

 

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says preliminary census data shows a 3 percent reduction in population in Lowndes County. 

 

Hosemann stopped in Columbus Wednesday on a statewide media tour to prime voters for the Nov. 2 congressional election. He touched on a number of topics including the census data and pending redistricting. 

 

The population decrease won''t directly cost the county one of its six representatives, but changes are imminent. Hosemann is pushing to eliminate split districts across the state and to honor natural boundaries such as county lines. If he succeeds, Lowndes is due two and a half representatives, based solely on population. 

 

Opinions vary as to whether a reduction in representatives would be beneficial or detrimental. 

 

"There''s some debate about how that functions, whether it''s better to have multi-representation," said Hosemann. 

 

More representatives speaking on behalf of Lowndes County could equal strength in numbers if those representatives voted together, but disagreements could dilute voting strength. 

 

"It''s a good time for people to focus on redistricting and whether they want multi-representation or single representation and someone directly responsible to this area," said Hosemann. 

 

Other areas of the state are expected to see more profound population shifts. Preliminary figures show the Delta losing approximately 10 percent of its population and DeSoto County growing by 40 percent. Oktibbeha County also saw a slight increase. 

 

"People are moving where the jobs are," said Hosemann. 

 

Concrete census figures are expected by February and the Mississippi House and Senate will provide their redistricting proposals to the Justice Department in March.  

 

Hosemann says chances are slim the initial proposals will pass unopposed and a delay may force state legislators to run in two elections in 2011: before and after the new districts are established. 

 

For now, Hosemann and his office are focused on hyping federal congressional elections. 

 

"We want to get people''s interest up and tell them to go vote," he said. 

 

The Secretary of State is trying to make the voting process pain free. Voters who are unsure of their polling site can visit the Secretary of State''s website, sos.ms.gov, to use the new poll locator. And those who can''t make it to the polls in person can find instructions for absentee voting. Hosemann says 575 absentee ballots have already been cast in Lowndes County. 

 

Soldiers or travelers overseas can also cast their votes via electronic voting, an initiative in which Hosemann says Mississippi is leading the nation. 

 

"A soldier can download in Afghanistan the ballot for Lowndes, scan it in and it goes to (Columbus Circuit Clerk) Haley Salazar''s office. And she takes it and puts it in the precinct box just as if you walked in the precinct that day and voted," said Hosemann. 

 

Representatives from the Secretary of State''s office will be in 29 counties on election day supervising polling places. Hosemann says the state employees will be on hand to prevent aberrations like those which occurred in Macon and Corinth during the last election, where an alarmingly high percentage of votes cast were absentee ballots. 

 

Following the election, Hosemann has a wish list of voting reforms he''ll campaign to have included on the general election ballot in November 2011 including voter identification and rights for disabled voters. Additional issues such as eminent domain and the personhood definition may be included as well. 

 

Hosemann will campaign for a host of additional legislation in coming months, but not in the interest of raising his own public profile prior to next year''s general election. He downplays speculations he''ll run for lieutenant governor in 2011 when Phil Bryant is expected to make a bid for governor. 

 

"I don''t think so. We''ve been looking at all our options and we haven''t made any announcements about what we want to do," said Hosemann. 

 

"We get encouragement for seeking other offices on occasion and some encouragement saying we''ve probably exhausted our use for life. But people are responding to some of the efforts we''ve made on voting, business reforms and 16th Section land management." 

 

Hosemann gives the edge in the governor''s race to fellow Republican Bryant. Should he decide to run, Hosemann says Bryant''s name identification following his time as lieutenant governor and as state auditor trumps all other announced and potential candidates.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment mr. jordan commented at 10/9/2010 10:50:00 PM:

Maybe this resulted from the Tea Party's government paranoia that demanded no one answer the census forms because the government might be spying on them.

Oh, well, they didn't want the government contributions to the state, anyway, but they might have asked the rest of us if we did.

 

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