Appeals court to hear Hattiesburg voting case

A federal appeals court will hear arguments Aug. 3 on whether the counting of university students in Hattiesburg’s population restricted minority participation on the city council.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has been asked to overturn U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett’s ruling that the city did not violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by including dormitory students in population calculations used to draw the city’s wards.

A group of 10 Hattiesburg residents, including Clarence Magee, president of the Forrest County NAACP, and the Rev. Kenneth Fairley, sued the city in 2006 order to remove college students from the population. They said that the council used the city’s 3,000 transient students in Ward 1 to redraw ward boundaries that compacted the city’s black residents in Wards 2 and 5, thus making Ward 1, 3 and 4 predominately white.

They want new wards drawn to reflect 2006 Census data that suggested blacks would comprise at least 55 percent of the total voting age population when transient students were excluded.