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Town To Study Redistricting To Allow White Representation On Council

July 7, 1989

FRIARS POINT, Miss. (AP) _ White residents are complaining about their lack of representation on the board of aldermen, so town leaders have asked their lawyer to study creation of a white-majority district.

″I’m in favor of this,″ Mayor James Washington, who is black, said after hearing a petition read from white residents. They comprise about 15 percent of the 1,400 residents of the Mississippi River town.

The petition asked aldermen to create four wards, including one with a 65 percent white voting-age population, and a fifth at-large slot on the council.

Over the past 10 years, federal lawsuits have forced more than 30 Mississippi cities to change the way they elect city government officials to allow for greater black representation. However, Friars Point is the first municipality to consider greater white representation.

″We don’t deserve to have three places, or even two on the board,″ said John Yount, who presented the petition Wednesday. ″We just want to be involved in what’s going on and have a voice to represent our interests.″

Friars Point had at least one white member on the board until new municipal officials took office Monday and the council became all black.

Currently, all members of Friars Point’s board of aldermen are elected at- large, meaning all voters cast ballots for each member.

The petition claimed that at-large system discriminated against white residents and violated the one-person, one-vote principle.

Board members voted unanimously to have the town attorney study the feasibility of drawing up districts and report the findings at an aldermen meeting July 13.

″The majority of the board were in favor of going to the ward system. An expert should be employed to study population demographics and ward lines,″ said the attorney, Hunter Twiford.

If the council does vote to change, it would require federal court and Justice Department approval under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Yount said he was pleased with the petition’s reception. He said the aldermen’s cooperation would save the taxpayers money.

″We don’t want a lawsuit,″ he said. ″If we went to court and won, the town would have to pay attorney’s fees. We don’t want that. We just want someone to represent us.″