By Alyssa Schnugg
Now that the annexation of about 11-square miles of county land into the city of Oxford is complete, city leaders must now reshape its voting wards to include the city’s newest residents.
On Tuesday, the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved a resolution to move forward with the redistricting process, which includes forming a Redistricting Committee, made up of 12 people – two from each of the city’s six voting wards.
The resolution states that the committee must fairly and adequately represent the minority population within the city of Oxford.
A public hearing will be held to explain the details of the proposed redistricting plan where citizens and other interested parties will have the opportunity to participate and comment on the proposed plan before it goes before the Board of Aldermen for approval.
In the process of redistricting, the city must adhere to state laws to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Three Rivers Planning and Development District will be assisting the city by performing analysis and preparing an appropriate plan to comply with the law.
Before approving the redistricting, the following criteria must be met:
1. The number of wards will not exceed the number of members of the governing Board of Aldermen.
2. The ward plan shall be established in a manner which confirms the principles of one person, one vote so that there is equality in total and voting age population among districts.
3. The ward plan shall be established in a manner that ensures the fair and effective representation of all minority groups residing in the municipality.
4. Ward lines shall be drawn in a manner which strives to keep intact communities with established ties of common interest and association, whether historical, racial, economic, ethnic, religious or other.
5. Each ward shall be contiguous, and consistent with prior redistricting plans to the extent possible.
6. Each ward shall be as compact as possible.
7. Each ward shall follow natural geographic boundaries and maintain an equitable land area and road mileage, where possible.
8. Incumbents shall be separated into individual wards to the extent practicable, but only if such action does not affect adherence to the primary criteria stated herein.
9. Census blocks will only be broken when necessary to maintain an equitable population.
10. Voters’ rights: ward lines shall be drawn to avoid dilution of minority voting strength, and to avoid unnecessary concentration or fragmentation of minority communities.
11. There shall be no partisan gerrymandering. Ward lines shall not be drawn to create an advantage for any one political group.
12. Districts will hold “regular” shape unless it is necessary for a District to take an “irregular” shape that is not influenced by racial makeup as the dominant or controlling rationale.