Each chamber has passed their own version of their redistricting maps. They now head to the other chamber for passage.
On Tuesday, the Mississippi House passed an amended version of Joint Resolution 1, the legislative redistricting plan for State Representatives, by a vote of 81-37.
The Mississippi House consists of 122 representatives who will be elected from 122 single-member districts.
The bill states that, “it is the responsibility and official mandate of the Legislature to reapportion the state in compliance with the one-person, one-vote requirement of the federal Constitution into election districts as close to equal in population as permissible under the law.”
Upon implementation, the Joint Resolution will move some districts while others “slid around, some more than others.” Following the House Legislative Reapportionment Committee meeting on Sunday, State Rep. Jim Beckett (R) said that some may have moved a precinct or two, and others, half a precinct.
One of the major changes to the map include the moving of two districts to another part of the state. District 33 held by Rep. Tommy Reynolds (D) and District 20 held by Rep. Chris Brown (R) would be cut to account for new districts in DeSoto and Harrison County.
During the discussion of JR 1 on the House floor, State Rep. Zakiya Summers (D) introduced an amendment that was adopted. The amendment would essentially replace four precincts that had been taken out of District 68 and put into District 67. Summers said that they put those precincts back into 68 and “flopped” two precincts that had been taken from a different district that had been put into 68 and they put those back into 67. It puts two precincts into 67 and four back into 68.
The amendment would move Rep. Summers back into her original district, District 68.
Chairman of the Joint Legislative Reapportionment Committee Rep. Beckett said that he supported the passage of the amendment which passed by a voice vote.
Rep. Robert Johnson, House Democratic Minority Leader, also offered an amendment.
Johnson said his amendment would reflect the body in a balanced manner and is a better reflection of Mississippi. He said that all of the required criteria and software were used in the creation of his map.
“We ought to be in this body in a balanced manner that takes care of everybody in the state and everybody has a voice,” Johnson said.
The amendment, which was aimed solely at increasing black members, failed in a vote of 39-77.
Joint Resolution 1 will now be sent to the Mississippi Senate for a vote.
In the Senate, members also passed the new redistricting maps by a vote of 45 to 7. This was the second of two maps presented in the last week to change the lines of voting districts.
“We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Dean Kirby and members of the committee in the redistricting process on the Senate side. The outcome of his hard work is a fair Senate map providing a conservative majority reflective of the Mississippi citizenry,” Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann said.
The changes to the map adopted from the first presented was a swap of precincts between Senate Districts 21 and 22. Both are currently Democratic seats held by Senator Barbara Blackmon (D-21) and Senator Joseph Thomas (D-22).
The most notable changes in the Senate plan are to District 37 held by Senator Melanie Sojourner (R) and District 37 held by Senator Albert Butler (D). The two districts were combined and will be renamed SD 36 and a new district was created to encompass parts of Rankin and Smith counties.
Sen. Sojourner was unhappy with the changes, taking to social media to express her thoughts regarding the absorption of her district into another. She insinuated that the redistricting plan was simply to “get rid of me,” and to “protect Democrats.”
She placed blame on Lt. Governor Hosemann, insinuating that he is “making a personal attack on me and the Republican voters I represent,” adding that “they are doing all they can to protect Democrat Senate seats.”
Senator Brice Wiggins, who sits on the Legislative Reapportionment Committee said that there was no punishment intended with the redrawn lines. He said the districts were drawn to reflect the shifting population in the state. Roughly 65,000 residents moved out of the Second Congressional District, away from the Delta.
Senator Derrick Simmons, the chamber’s Democratic leader, offered the first amendment with a different suggested map. He said many advocacy groups influenced the map to more accurately present the black voters in Mississippi. The amendment failed.
The more controversial amendment offered in the Senate was by Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) which garnered over an hour’s worth of debate and questioning from other members. He says his new proposed map would bring the BVAP down to a level in which Sen. Sojourner, whose district is being absorbed with the original map, could actually compete.
McDaniel said the amendment comes after alleged “secrecy” from leadership regarding what the final JR 202 map would look like. These claims were dismissed by Sen. Kirby and challenged by other members who said they received hundreds of emails over the past months regarding what to expect following McDaniel’s public comments.
The Senator spent nearly an hour answering question, that were mostly negative commentary on the amendment, before the chamber loudly voted it down on a voice vote.
Lawmakers tackled Congressional redistricting in the first week of the 2022 session. With the major losses in District 2, HB 384 leveled Districts 1, 3 and 4. Rep. Jason White said at passage that the bill was drafted heavily on the current federal plan in place in an attempt to not rely on the courts to draw a plan.
**Contributions from Anne Summerhays, Capitol Reporter**