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No objections filed to new congressional redistricting

JACKSON — No one filed objections to new congressional districts drawn by federal judges by a last Thursday deadline, which could clear the way for judges to ratify the districts following a Wednesday hearing.

A three-judge panel released a plan this week to update Mississippi’s four congressional districts. Redistricting is necessary after every Census to equalize population.

The majority-black 2nd District lost population between 2000 and 2010, so it had to expand geographically to take in more people. Northeast Mississippi’s 1st District, by comparison, had 73,000 more people than ideal.

The proposed map decreases the number of split counties from eight to four. Counties split under the new plan are Hinds, Madison, Clarke and Oktibbeha. It also doesn’t split any existing precincts.

Lawyers for the state Republican Party and outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour, a party member, lauded the plan, saying it was better than one proposed by a group of plaintiffs that included state Rep. Kelvin Buck, D-Holly Springs. Bennie Thompson, the 2nd District’s Democratic congressman, helped draw the lines proposed by the Buck group.

“The Court’s plan fully addresses plaintiffs’ constitutional claims and is superior to the plan proposed by plaintiffs,” wrote Jack Wilson, a lawyer for Barbour.

Changes in the new plan include:

Moving Panola, Yalobusha and Grenada counties from the 1st District to the 2nd District.

Putting all of Leake County into District 2. It had been split between District 2 and central Mississippi’s District 3, represented by Republican Gregg Harper.

Putting all of Winston and Webster counties into District 1, removing parts of each from District 3.

Splitting Okitbbeha County between District 1 and 3. It has all been in District 3.

Moving all of Marion and Jones County into south Mississippi’s District 4, represented by Republican Steven Palazzo. Parts of Marion and Jones had been in District 3.

— Newly splitting Clarke County between Districts 3 and 4. It has been entirely in the 4th District.

Redistricting moved into federal court after state legislators failed to agree on a new congressional map. Judges had to move fast, because the qualifying deadline for congressional candidates is Jan. 13, followed by March 13 primaries.

Some Republicans had wanted to move Adams and Wilkinson counties into the 2nd District, now centered in the Delta and Jackson.

But Rep. Alan Nunnelee, the freshman Republican representing the 1st District, voiced acceptance. He said he was “disappointed” to lose Panola, Yalobusha and Grenada counties, but said he was “excited to reach out and meet my new constituents in Winston and Oktibbeha.”

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