Meridian Star

March 6, 2013

City still awaits DOJ word on ward lines

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Redistricting of the city's five wards, based on 2010 census figures have still not been given the go-ahead from the U.S. Department of Justice.

    On Tuesday, the Meridian City Council learned that there has not been word from DOJ on the new lines.

    DOJ will either offer no objection, which is its way of approving the changes in ward lines, or it will object to the plan.

    "When they asked us for supplemental information, that gave them an additional 60 days to give a reply. That 60 days ends on March 11," Ronnie Walton, city attorney, told the council. "The Secretary of State's office has advised me that if we do not have Justice Department's preclearance by the time we start providing absentee ballots, then we must conduct the election on the old lines."

    Friday is the qualifying deadline for candidates, and Walton said after the city knows the names of all of the candidates, the names will be given to the political parties. The parties will certify the candidates, then the city will submit the ballots to the printers.

    Party primaries will be held May 7; runoff elections, if necessary, will be held May 21. The general election is set for June 4.

    The problem could arise that candidates who qualify in one ward could actually live in a different ward if the redistricting plan is approved, according to Ward One Councilman George Thomas. If the new ward lines are used in the upcoming election, the Circuit Clerk's office will have to make changes to the voter rolls. That puts everything on a tight deadline, according to Ed Skipper, the city's CFO.

    "Time is going to be a real issue," Skipper said.

    However, Walton said the changes in voting locations have been approved and can be used whether the elections are held on the old ward lines or new ward lines.

    In other business, the council approved the sale of some timber at Bonita Lakes.

    "We need to cut it to keep it healthy," said Monty Jackson, public works director.

    The council unanimously approved the sale of the surplus timber to Judson Inc. of Pennington, Ala., which had the highest bid, for $115,452.