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Minorities ask for precinct

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - Two things came out loud and clear during the final public forum held by the County Redistricting Committee - protection of funding and a concern about minority representation in county government. 

Ferris resident Victor Burnett, president of the Waxahachie branch of the NAACP, asked the committee to consider combining minority voting precincts into one commissioner's precinct.

'I think that would enhance the minority vote to give us a chance of electing a minority commissioner,' Burnett said.

Burnett presented his proposals on a map for the committee to review.

Monique Foster, also a Ferris resident, supported Burnett's request, but pointed out the impact of the committee's decisions on funding for rural fire districts.

'Now we're not just talking about voting here,' Foster said. 'We're getting into resources.'

Foster and Burnett both had previously argued a need for maps and other written information to be available to constituents at the public forums.

Committee Member Paula Baucum summed up Foster's comments. 'I believe you've been very clear that you want the fire district and school district lines to be considered,' Baucum said.

'We've had a lot of differing opinions,' interjected Committee Member Lyn Hill. 'In your opinion, which line is most important?'

Foster's response was succinct, 'Tax dollars.'

Foster went on to address the minority vote issue. 'I don't hear you saying you're going to dilute the minority votes,' she said.

'If you're not trying to do that, then I'm saying please take into consideration so there won't be a reduction in tax dollars.'

Broderick Sargent, a Waxa-hachie business owner, was interested in the committee's future actions.

'This board is pretty diverse,' he said. 'My concern is, how is this board going to prioritize the information you receive?'

'It is not our job to prioritize,' said committee member Maurice Osborn.

'(We will) put it together and submit the important issues to the commissioners.'

Committee member Robert McKenzie said the needs of minority voters would be a high priority.

'Legally, we have to keep in mind the civil rights act,' he said. 'Since we have no minority representative when it comes to the deciding, we need to be considered at the beginning and throughout the decision-making.'

Jackie Miller Sr., pct. 3, was the only county commissioner present at the forum.

'I can tell you this,' Miller said. 'They did come out with a federal law that you can't gerrymander (precinct lines).'

'If it ain't going to be gerrymandered, why is box 123 all chopped up?' asked Burnett excitedly.

'That's a gerrymandered deal right there! We would like those voters to be put back into precinct one.'

A number of citizens from voting precinct 113 expressed a desire to remain in commissioner's precinct one.

All agreed they did not want the precinct to be divided.

Several citizens from the Midlothian area submitted letters asking the committee to include the entire Midlothian ISD in one precinct to enhance communication on interlocal agreements.

According to Baucum, a subcommittee will now draft the committee's recommendations.

The entire committee will meet one more time to review the draft.

The document will be presented to the commissioners' court at their regular meeting on March 12.

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