U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson speaks with reporters prior to the Friends of Mississippi Civil Rights gala Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 in Jackson, Miss. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, Mississippi’s longest serving member of Congress, has told state legislators that he would prefer that all of Hinds County be placed in his district.

State legislators will attempt to redraw the state’s four congressional districts early in the 2022 session to match population shifts found by the recently completed U.S. Census. Both the U.S. Constitution and state law mandate that all of a state’s congressional districts have close to the same population.

Thompson’s 2nd District, which includes much of the Mississippi Delta and a large portion of Hinds, the state’s most populous county, is the only one of the state’s four congressional districts to have lost population since 2010.

According to information compiled by Chism Strategies, a Mississippi-based polling and political consulting firm, Thompson’s district is 65,829 short of the ideal district size of 740,319 people.

Based on Census numbers:

  • The 1st District, which includes much of north Mississippi, including the Memphis suburb of DeSoto County in northwest Mississippi, and the Tupelo area in northeast Mississippi, is 17,913 people more than the ideal size.
  • The 3rd District, which stretches from east Mississippi to southwest Mississippi and includes much of the Jackson metro area, is 10,719 more than the ideal size.
  • The Gulf Coast-based 4th District has been the fastest growing district, 37,196 more than the ideal size.

Thompson, the state’s sole African American member of Congress, recently spoke to legislators who were holding public hearings to garner input before beginning their task of redrawing the U.S. House and state legislative districts. He told them he would prefer all of Hinds County be placed in his district.

“I have part of Hinds County. If you look at Hinds County — just give me Hinds County and you are pretty close to having it,” Thompson said, referring to having the “ideal” number of residents in his district. “I live in Hinds County. I have lived all my life in Hinds County… I think communities of interest are vitally important” to stay together in redistricting.

According to Census data, 31,150 Hinds County residents are in District 3, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Michael Guest of Rankin County. If those Hinds County residents were moved to Thompson’s district, he still would be about 35,000 residents short of the “ideal size.” Legislators still would have to look to other areas of the state to add more people to Thompson’s district.

Whether legislators would opt to move north into DeSoto and Tate counties to acquire those residents, southwest into the Natchez area or east will be watched closely.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, a member of the Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee, said it is not clear what path legislators will opt to take to pick up those residents for District 2, but that the intent will be to ensure the district remains predominately African American.

Mississippi has a Black population of about 37%, so it would be difficult for state leaders to justify to the federal courts not having an African American majority district.

But when legislators take people from one district, it will create a domino effect that most likely will impact all of the congressional districts at least slightly because the goal is to be as close to the “ideal size” as “practicable,” according to the law.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.