Community reacts to Hattiesburg municipal precinct changes

Community reacts to Hattiesburg municipal precinct changes

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council voted last week to change the location for three voting precincts for the upcoming municipal elections. This change affects Wards 1, Ward 2 and Ward 4.

The change is getting a mixed reaction from some community members and leaders.

Longtime Mobile-Bouie neighborhood resident Melvin Williams welcomes the change.

“Number one, we’re proud that it’s a precinct because it’s the future home of the Civil Rights Museum,” Williams said of the change to the Eureka School Precinct. “So what better place to become a precinct than a Civil Rights Museum. And then second of all, it’s the convenience. You know most of the people that vote at this precinct live in this community.”

The city of Hattiesburg says the changes help better align the municipal precincts with those used for county, state and federal elections.

Some residents see multiple benefits. For example, Williams says his new Eureaka School location is larger with more parking and updated disability access.

“Most of all, now since COVID-19, the place is very open,” Williams said. “It is protective for the poll workers and the voters. So that was the right move in order to protect the people and give them a place where they feel safe to go vote.”

But some others have concerns.

“Moving precincts around right before an election, I don’t think that’s going to pass. I don’t think that’s passing the smell test,” said Glenda Funchess, a Hattiesburg Resident and Forrest County NAACP member. “It has impropriety written all over it and certainly the justice department needs to look at that.”

With the municipal primary on April 6, Funchess says it could create confusion for residents used to voting at the previous location.

“And so we don’t need any type of roadblocks put in the way,” Funchess said. “We’re going to look at this very closely because we see it as a way of suppressing the African American voters, so we do have concerns.” She explains that as a city resident her November 3rd precinct is different from the location she will have to attend for the upcoming municipal election.

Residents affected will receive a card in the mail explaining the change and what to expect on election day.

The City of Hattiesburg says the City Clerk can answer any questions about registering to vote or voting. The City Clerk’s office number is 601-545-4550.

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