NAACP proposes districts

Published 10:47 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Following the release of a controversial plan drafted by city administrators, the Nansemond-Suffolk NAACP chapter has put forth its own proposed redistricting map for the city of Suffolk.

The map maintains a racial split of three boroughs where blacks are the majority, three where whites are the majority and one toss-up. It also keeps all City Council and School Board incumbents in their boroughs.

The Nansemond-Suffolk chapter of the NAACP has presented this borough map for consideration by city officials. The bull's-eyes indicate where incumbent City Council and School Board members live.

Lue Ward, president of the Suffolk-Nansemond chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Johnnie Edwards, the legal redress chair for the chapter, made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday.

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“I’m very excited about this map,” Ward said. “We worked real hard on this map.”

Ward said the chapter worked with redistricting experts from the national NAACP organization to develop the map.

The organization’s main concern with the city-proposed map was that the Suffolk borough was supposedly a majority-black borough, but yet the voting-age black population was only 50.1 percent. That total included inmates at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, many of whom are federal inmates or convicted felons.

In addition, Ward said, the former Nansemond borough would be “split four ways” under the city’s plan, diluting what he called “one of the biggest African-American voting blocs” in the area.

“That right there makes a big red flag to me,” Ward said.

To develop their proposal, the chapter aimed for the target population of 12,084, which equals about one-seventh of the city’s population according to the 2010 census.

“Our main thing was to make sure we had the ideal population,” Edwards said.

Compared to the borough map currently in use, the NAACP proposal brings part of the Whaleyville borough east to the city’s boundary with Chesapeake. The Cypress borough would shift north, reaching almost all the way to the city’s northern border in the Sleepy Hole area.

Responding to questions at the press conference, Edwards said the organization did not look at traditional community boundaries when developing the map.

“Community interest is second to everything else,” Edwards said.

Edwards also said the organization did not try to keep incumbents in their borough, but the proposed map accomplishes that. The map proposed by the city would have ousted a City Council member and two School Board members from their districts.

The organization presented its map to city officials at Tuesday’s Cypress borough redistricting meeting. They also plan to present it at a public hearing Oct. 5, Ward said.

Edwards reminded attendees at Tuesday’s press conference that the map is not perfect, and they welcome suggestions that would improve it.

“This map was made in Washington, D.C., not Mount Sinai,” he said, contrasting the map with the Bible’s Ten Commandments. “It’s printed on paper, not on two tablets.”