JACKSON — Mississippi’s redistricting battle has become more complex, and with less than two weeks left in the legislative session it is unclear whether the debate will be resolved in the state Capitol or in a federal courtroom.
The House Elections Committee voted along party lines yesterday to join a federal lawsuit filed by the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Ten Democrats voted to become a party to the lawsuit, and four Republicans were against it.
House Elections Committee chairman Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, said that by joining the lawsuit, the panel is trying to maintain a voice in the redistricting process if it is settled in federal court. He said the committee would be able to present maps in court if it is part of the litigation.
The NAACP seeks to block elections this year under Mississippi’s current 122 House districts and 52 Senate districts, which were put in place after the 2000 census. The civil rights group says because of population changes over the past decade, some districts have too many residents and some have too few and that violates the constitutional principle of one-person, one-vote.
Legislators have been trying for weeks to draw new district lines to account for shifts revealed by the 2010 census, including growth in DeSoto County, just south of Memphis, Tenn., and loss of populations in parts of the economically struggling Delta.
Traditionally, each chamber draws its own map and the other chamber rubber stamps it.
At the urging of Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, the Republican-controlled Senate bucked tradition this year by rejecting a plan by the Democratic-controlled House.
House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said last week that because the Senate ignored the procedure that’s been followed for decades, he would not appoint negotiators to work on a final version of the House map. The House and Senate maps are included in a single resolution, so both are in limbo.
Talks between the chambers appear to be at a standstill.
Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, was one of the four House Elections Committee members who voted against intervening in the federal lawsuit. He said the vote was “just a dog and pony show.”
Source: The Associated Press