The Mississippi chapter of the NAACP has developed a congressional redistricting plan that it hopes the Legislature will adopt in the upcoming 2022 session.
The recently unveiled plan moves all of Hinds County and a small portion of southern Madison County into the majority-Black 2nd Congressional District. Those areas currently are in the 3rd District.
The plan makes other minor changes in other parts of the state to ensure equal population representation among the four congressional districts.
“This map meets the criteria for the congressional districts according to Section II of the (U.S) Voting Rights Act of 1965, the United States Constitution and it complies with all state laws,” said Carroll Rhodes of Hazlehurst, attorney for the Mississippi NAACP. The NAACP is the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
During the 2022 legislative session, which begins in January, the Legislature will attempt to redraw the four congressional seats and the 174 state legislative seats to match population shifts found by the 2020 U.S. Census.
Legislators plan to deal with congressional redistricting early in the session since all four U.S. House seat elections will be held later in 2022. The elections for the state legislative seats are not scheduled until 2023.
On Dec. 15, the joint House and Senate redistricting committee will meet with the intent of adopting a congressional plan to present to the full Legislature in the 2022 season.
Corey Wiggins, the executive director of the state chapter of the NAACP, is asking the committee to consider the NAACP proposal.
In a letter, Wiggins told the committee the goal of the NAACP plan is to not “disproportionately affect marginalized communities” in a negative way.
He said the NAACP plan “ensures all Mississippi voters are represented in the voting process, gives special consideration to compactness of congressional districts and meets all federal and state laws.”
The plan, Rhodes said, splits fewer counties, municipalities and precincts than the current map does. The ideal population is 740,320 people in each district. Rhodes said the NAACP plan has two districts that are one person each below the ideal size and one district that is one person above the ideal size. The other district is the exact ideal size based on the 2020 Census data.
The law calls for the districts to be as close “as practicable” to equal in population.
Wiggins said the NAACP is submitting a plan early in hopes of avoiding litigation. The Legislature has been unable to complete congressional redistricting efforts after the previous two censuses and it was left to the federal courts to draw the districts.
Both Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, the Senate chair of the redistricting committee, and Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, the House chair, have said they hope to avoid litigation and have a plan approved by the Legislature.
The biggest chore facing the Legislature in drawing the congressional districts is the loss of more than 65,000 people in the 2nd District. The Legislature will have to address the population loss and at the same time, based on federal laws, maintain a Black majority district.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who represents the 2nd District, has advocated moving all of Hinds from the 3rd District, represented by Republican Michael Guest of Rankin County, to his district to help offset the population loss.
The NAACP plan also proposes moving all of Hinds into Thompson’s district.
Under the NAACP plan, the 2nd District would have a Black voting age population of 62.1% compared to 64.8% under the current map. The 3rd District would have, as it does now, the second highest African American population at a little more than 35%.
To meet equal representation goals, the NAACP plan also would:
- Move Winston and all of Oktibbeha County to the 3rd District from the 1st.
- Move all of Marion and Clarke counties and a tiny portion of Jones from the 4th to the 3rd.
Wiggins said the NAACP is working to develop a proposal for the 174 legislative seats.