Lawsuit wants to redraw Hattiesburg city council lines

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A group of Hattiesburg residents have sued to get a federal court to redraw ward lines to make it easier to elect a third black member to the city council.

“It’s all about political power,” said Ellis Turnage, a lawyer from Cleveland who represents a group of 10 city residents who filed the lawsuit Monday in federal court in Hattiesburg.

“This is a political issue instead of a race issue. Are racial factors at play? I don’t know, but experts could probably say if there are racial factors underlying some of these complaints,” Turnage said.

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The lawsuit alleges that city council, the election commission and Democratic and Republican executive committees violated the Voting Rights Act by using 3,358 students living in dormitories when drawing ward boundaries throughout the city.

The suit asks the court to order the city council to eliminate the college students and redistrict the city in accordance with the new numbers.

City Councilmen Carter Carroll and Red Bailey, who were involved with the redistricting process of 2002, defended the city’s current political divisions.

Carroll said a consulting firm advised council members that students who reported Hattiesburg as their home should be counted.

“To my knowledge, we didn’t have the authority to toss out a census form,” he said.