Leroy Brooks: Redistricting, setting the record straight

March 17, 2011 9:01:00 AM



Presently, there is a contentious debate going on among the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors regarding the issue of redistricting. Of course, such action is not unusual. Many counties are going through the same process. If one really wanted to see a contentious battle, follow the actions of the Mississippi Legislature. After reading some of the blogs printed in your newspaper. I recognized that the blogosphere allows you to hide your identity, but not your narrow-mindedness. Therefore, for all the enlightened citizens interested in understanding what''s going on, here are the facts. 


So far, the conversation has been about what Leroy Brooks wants for his district. No, the real issue is the drawing of a fair plan for Lowndes County and its citizens. I understand the politics of Lowndes County and recognize there is a group of people in this county that thrives on the idea of "destroying Leroy Brooks." Sadly, enough they haven''t figured it out; I''m not deterred by the hatemongers and their rhetoric. After 28 years of listening to the same foolishness, I''ve become immune to the preponderance of ignorance by a few. 


There are two factors that must be considered in any redistricting plan. First, is the idea of one man, one vote. This idea lends itself to insuring there are an equal number of citizens in each supervisor''s district. Based on the 2010 census data, the population in Lowndes County is 58,406. Ideally, each district should have a population of 11,681. These numbers do not include the population at Columbus Air Force. The base is not a part of the census, but the persons living on the base are allowed to vote in District 2. Seemingly, meeting that requirement is a simple one. Not so, because the other major factor in redistricting is the preservation of the minority voting districts. There are two majority African-Americans voting district in Lowndes. Not only must these districts remain intact, there cannot be a dilution of the voting strength. Since it is sometimes difficult to reach ideal numbers in the district and not dilute minority voting strength, the law allows for a deviation of not more than 10 percent in the total plan. This allows for districts to be over or under the ideal number and yet meet the litmus test for maintaining the two African-American districts, with the appropriate voting numbers. 


Here is the problem with the proposed plan by Harry Sanders and his supporters. The existing voting age population for African- Americans in District 5 is 63.5%. The proposed plan would reduce it to 61.3%. For any reasonable man or woman motivated by logic and understanding, that is dilution. The question in my mind is why are they so apt to reduce the voting population in District 5 when the majority voting age population in their districts is beyond approach. The voting age population in the three majority white districts is as follows: Harry Sanders (71%) Frank Ferguson (70%, excluding Columbus Air Force Base, if you add those voters, his voting age population becomes approximately (75%) and John Holliman''s district is (83%). District four is the other majority African-American district with a voting age population of 79%. In redistricting terms it''s called "packing." The strategy behind packing is to lump as many African-American voters in one area to limit their influence elsewhere. 


I had a plan drawn to reflect a more equitable voting age population throughout the county. I was completely within my right to take such action. For those of you keeping up with redistricting in Mississippi, you are aware that gubernatorial candidate Phil Bryant had a plan drafted for the Mississippi Senate that differed from the one proposed by the senate redistricting committee. Under the proposed plan I offered to the board, the white majority districts would reflect the following voting age populations: Harry Sanders ( 74% ), Frank Ferguson ( 70%, again, with the Columbus Air Force Base voting population it would probably remain at ( 75%) and John Holliman''s district would be ( 82%). In other words, the plan I proposed would not impact their white voters at all. District four voting age population would be reduced to (74%) and district five would be (70%). This plan reflects the premises of redistricting and all of its mandates, which are minorities, have the ability to elect a representative of its choice. 


Whether we agree with the laws of the land is a personal issue. However, it is what it is. After witnessing the unwillingness of my colleagues to do the right things, I see why there is still the need for Justice Department oversight. Many things changed without a struggle, but the sharing of power and resources is not one of those. 


Finally, Mr. Editor, you characterized the dialogue between Harry Sanders and me as bickering. I beg your difference. For whatever reasons, people in this community give Harry a free ride to do whatever he pleases, without any regard for the law. Unfortunately, that''s not the case with me. I have watched him destroy the livelihood of county employees, manipulate other elected officials and cost the county thousands of dollars to support his whims. 


As matter of fact, if we had chosen the Golden Triangle Planning Development District to complete a redistricting plan, we would have saved a considerable amount of money and the plan would be completed. But his inability to control the executive director eliminated that option. After his effort to destroy the Columbus Convention and Visitor''s Bureau failed, I guess redistricting will be his next move. I''m not sure what will happen in the end. However, I plan to commit myself to a fair and equitable redistricting plan for Lowndes County. It has nothing to do with winning an election; it has to do with principle. It has been said, "If a man doesn''t stand for something, he will fall for anything." 


Leroy Brooks