Mississippi lawmakers are tasked with drawing redistricting lines in the 2022 session. This redistricting usually occurs every 10 years, after data from the U.S. Census is gathered and distributed to the states. However, due to the COVD-19 pandemic there has been a delay in how quickly lawmakers can access that data.
The data was first delayed until July 31, 2021 but Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann said they have now learned it will be at least the end of September before any Census data comes down.
“I was really hoping we’d be doing it right now, but the Census has been delayed by COVID, legitimately delayed by COVID and by whatever other reasons. So right now, we’re looking at at least a September 30,” said Hosemann.
He indicated that push-back will put legislators in a real time crunch to get these lines redrawn. Both he and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn have named their members to the respective reapportionment committees. Members will have to work quickly in those last months of 2021 to establish those new districts come January 2022.
Hosemann said that not only does the state have to sign off on the plan, but federal courts must also put their stamp of approval on the new lines.
“I think we’ll be really busy in September,” said Hosemann.
Redistricting itself is the process of redrawing district boundaries when a state has more or less representatives than districts based on population. It is required by the U.S. Constitution after each Census is completed. Each Congressional District must have an equal number of people, and if a state has more than one district they must adjust the lines.
Mississippi has had four Congressional Districts. The state had five until the 2000 Census. The Magnolia State is not expected to lose or gain a seat this go around.
When the original deadline for the Census was pushed back, Secretary of State Michael Watson said he was not concerned Mississippi would be able to perform the redistricting duty because the state does not have a Legislative election in 2022.
The last time Mississippi redrew the lines for all voters was in 2012. However, in 2019, the state Legislature was required by court mandate to redraw the lines for Senate District’s 22 and 13 after a federal court ruled that the redistricting of 2012 violated federal voting rights in those areas. The lawsuit was filed by three individuals after a former Senator from Yazoo City lost in a run for the seat in 2015. He had been moved into another district after the 2012 redistricting.