House committee votes to intervene in legislative redistricting lawsuit

Members of the state House Apportionment and Elections Committee voted today to request the federal
court allow the panel to intervene in a lawsuit the NAACP filed over
legislative redistricting.

Committee Chairman Tommy Reynolds said intervening, or becoming a party
in the lawsuit, will allow his panel to ensure the state House’s
interests are heard. The National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People filed suit Thursday after the Senate failed to approve
the House redistricting plan.

“We want to make sure that the interests of the state House are
represented in this lawsuit,” said Reynolds, who led House efforts to
redraw district lines based on the 2010 Census.

To handle the intervention, the House Apportionment and Elections
Committee authorized the hiring of Jackson attorney Robert McDuff to
represent its interests. Reynolds said that McDuff’s lengthy experience
working on redistricting cases in Mississippi made him the ideal choice.

“Rob McDuff is well versed in redistricting cases, having worked on
voting rights cases in the past –including the state’s congressional
redistricting case following the 1980 Census and the congressional
redistricting case following the 2000 Census,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said that McDuff will be paid with private funds; the state
House and the state of Mississippi will not pay for McDuff’s services.

The NAACP’s lawsuit asks the court to rule that existing legislative
districts violate the one-man one-vote principle because of population
changes that have occurred across Mississippi during the last 10 years,
as reflected by the 2010 U.S. Census.

The House and Senate approved their own redistricting plans this month.
While the state House approved the plan state senators drew for
themselves, senators — under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant —
refused to approve the plan House members drew for themselves. The
Senate action marked the first time that one legislative body abandoned
the longstanding tradition of each deferring to the other in the design
of its own districts.

“It’s a shame that Lt. Gov. Bryant and other Senate leaders refused to
approve a House redistricting plan that was developed by the House and
that is fair to everyone,” Reynolds said. “The House plan, unlike most
typical redistricting plans, did not target minority party members. In
fact, of the four incumbents paired in redrawn districts, three were
Democrats and only one was a Republican.

“We are disappointed that they have chosen to waste taxpayer dollars
that would be better spent on our schools, our roads and our economic
development initiatives. In addition, the Senate’s action could force
taxpayers to cover the expense of two legislative elections — one this
year and another election in 2012.This could have been avoided.”

House Press Release
3/21/11