Thursday, January 13, 2022
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Mississippi Senate on Wednesday passed a plan to redraw the state’s four congressional districts, sending it to Gov. Tate Reeves for his expected approval.
The NAACP or other opponents could still ask a federal court to consider whether the new districts dilute the influence of Black voters.
The 33-18 Senate vote was largely along party lines, with most Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. Two Republicans voted no, and one did not vote.
The plan passed the House last week mostly along party lines, with Republicans and one independent in favor and Democrats and one independent opposed.
Political boundaries have to be updated every decade to reflect changes in population, with a goal of having an equal number of residents in each district.
The plan expands the territory of Mississippi's only majority-Black U.S. House district because the 2020 census showed the 2nd District lost population during the previous decade.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson has held the 2nd District seat since wining a 1993 special election. The district stretches through the Delta and into the city of Jackson.
Thompson said he wanted to expand the district but still keep it relatively compact by taking in more of the densely populated Jackson metro area. That proposal is also favored by the state NAACP. Instead, the plan on its way to the governor would move four sparsely populated southwestern counties into the 2nd District from the 3rd District.
“The map that we’ve drawn is a very valid, constitutional plan," said Senate President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby, a Republican from Pearl.
During the Senate debate Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Derrick Simmons unsuccessfully sought support for the NAACP redistricting plan.
Another member of the Legislative Black Caucus, Democratic Sen. Angela Turner-Ford of West Point, unsuccessfully sought support for another plan that put more people in the 2nd District but still keep it relatively compact by taking in densely populated areas of fast-growing DeSoto County and the areas Thompson wants from the metro Jackson area.
Turner-Ford's plan would have kept the 2nd District with a Black voting age population of nearly 60%, and it would have increased the Black voting age population of the 3rd District.
“People across the state want to feel as if their voices are being heard,” Turner-Ford said.
White Republicans represent the 1st District in the north, the 3rd District in the central part of the state and the 4th District in the south.
Candidates face a March 1 qualifying deadline to run for the four seats.