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Legislature delivers redisticting plan to Justice Department

JACKSON — Legislative leaders say plans for new district lines for the House and Senate have been delivered to the Department of Justice.

House Elections Committee chairman Bill Denny, R-Jackson, tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal the legislative plan was delivered this week.

The 122 House districts and 52 Senate districts have to be updated after each Census to account for population changes. Between 2000 and 2010, there was significant growth in DeSoto County, just south of Memphis, and it’s getting new legislative districts.

Because of Mississippi’s history of racial discrimination, the redistricting plans need approval of the Justice Department, which checks to ensure the plans don’t dilute minority voting strength.

Rep. Kelvin Buck, D-Holly Springs, said he and other Democrats would file objections with the Justice Department. Buck also said the Marshall County Board of Supervisors and the Holly Springs and Byhalia city governments had voted to file objections.

Their objections center on the fact that the Senate plan removes Marshall County from the district it has traditionally shared with Benton and Tippah counties and places it in a district with Tate County.

If the Justice Department rejects either the House or Senate plan, the state can appeal that ruling to federal court.

Denny said the delay in submitting the plans was to give private attorneys who consult with the legislative leadership on redistricting time to put together the information to submit to the Justice Department, which will look at issues such as whether the plans “retrogress” in terms of minority voting strength.

“I feel very good about the plan,” said Denny, who traveled to Washington last week to meet with Justice Department officials.

Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, who oversaw the Senate’s redistricting effort in 2012, has resigned from the Senate. Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, who handled the effort during the 2011 session, made the trip with Denny in place of Flowers.

Many Democrats complained that the plan pushed through by the new Republican majority diluted black voting strength by “packing” black voters in fewer districts. Denny and other Republican leaders denied that claim.

 

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