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Mississippi’s Redistricting Saga Ends With A Wimper
U.S. Supreme Court doesn't comment, upholds lower court rulings

by Frank Corder
It's gotten remarkably little press in Mississippi, but the news came down this week that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court's rulings on Mississippi's legislative redistricting ending the legal fight brought by House Democrats and the NAACP.

This all began back in the 2011 session, if you will recall, when the Mississippi House led by former Speaker Billy McCoy and fellow Democrats, including Reapportionment Chairman Tommy Reynolds, attempted to pass a redistricting plan aimed at protecting their then majority.

The Senate, led then by Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, held the line and passed their own version of a redistricting plan. McCoy refused to appoint a conference committee, instead choosing to seek court intervention alongside the NAACP.

State legislative elections were held in the old districts in November 2011 and voters ousted McCoy's boys, placing Republicans in charge of the Mississippi House. The GOP also expanded their numbers in the Senate.

With the leadership of new Speaker Phillip Gunn and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, the House and Senate methodically and deliberately went to work on redistricting, approving the revised lines during the 2012 session under the necessary parameters defined by the Voting Rights Act, meaning the new districts are compact, they uphold communities with common interests and black voting strength isn't weakened.

In September 2012 the Department of Justice approved the maps, essentially ending the question of whether there would be a second legislative election in as many years. But the NAACP (urged on by sympathetic Democrats in the legislature) continued their fight, carrying it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And, without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court ended this saga Monday.

A number of state and legislative leaders deserve accolades for their work on this effort. Just to name a few:

- former Senator Merle Flowers and Rep. Bill Denny for their legislative leadership as Chairs of Reapportionment;
- Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann for providing the essential argument on which the case hinged;
- Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Speaker Phillip Gunn, and Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden for their strong leadership in both chambers, guiding the legislation through the process;
- Governor Phil Bryant for effective use of his legislative role as Lt. Governor and his willingness to use the Governor's bully pulpit to make the case to the people of Mississippi.

The next round of redistricting will come after the 2020 census and after the 2019 elections, meaning the redistricting battle we saw this time and the uncertainty of having to potentially run twice should be less of an issue then since the legislature will have adequate time to address the matter without feeling pressed to get the job done prior to an election.

So for now, we'll see what effect these new maps have on the legislature when voters go to the polls come 2015. One thing we do know is that five pairs of representatives will potentially face off (if they seek reelection) setting the stage for more Mississippi political drama. However, conventional wisdom says that the GOP will maintain control of both chambers for the perceivable future.


Posted May 23, 2013 - 2:58 pm

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