by Alan Lange
On Monday, a lawsuit was filed by a formerly unsuccessful political candidate and a variety of left-leaning public interest non profit legal organizations that seeks to target a leading Republican legislator and redistrict one single Mississippi senate seat for 2019.
That’s a lede.
But that’s not the one you read in local newspapers. What you read about was an AP wire story written by Emily Wagster Pettus that said that three seemingly unaffiliated African American voters were suing to redraw a district that has a 51% BVAP (black voting age population).
Joseph Thomas, the lead plaintiff is a Democrat who had run unsuccessfully against Clarke, a Republican, in 2015. Clarke won with 54% of the vote.
The article conveniently omitted that the lawsuit was being pressed by the Mississippi Center for Justice and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, two organizations that are generally known to push the legal angle for Democrat leaning causes. Attorneys Rob McDuff, Ellis Turnage and Beth Orlansky are listed as local counsel.
That’s a pretty big detail. It’s omission was doesn’t appear accidental. Nor does the placement of the plaintiff and his history as a former candidate with the seat listed in the last paragraph seem similarly coincidental.
This is why, almost without fail, you put the source document (in this case the complaint) in an article. It’s hard to obfuscate “the whole story” when the source document is in the text of what you’re writing.
The lawsuit, which will be heard by Judge Carlton Reeves, goes into some pretty cursory analysis of BVAP populations. Essentially, the assertion from the complaint is that BVAPs>50% should generally equate with the result of a black candidate elected from that district, and it didn’t in this district hence there’s a problem. And they’re now looking for one unelected judge to usurp the redistricting process to stretch the BVAP in one spot to an acceptable level to put the thumb on the scale for the political result they’re seeking. But there’s not cogent analysis of the quality of candidates, the support from the political party or the larger political winds that have resulted in 7 statewide Republicans and 1 statewide Democrat.
Again, there’s always two sides to every story. But a fair reading of this story could just as easily be that Democrats are seeking, with willing participation from giga-funded non profits, a court battle to advantage themselves one seat in the Mississippi Senate – while no one is watching.