A visitor to the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, uses his cell phone to photograph a graphic of the state that depicts census growth or loss in each county over a 10-year period in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The Mississippi Legislature’s Joint Redistricting Committee is expected to approve a congressional redistricting plan Wednesday that will soon be presented to the full Legislature.

It is likely that the full Legislature will take up the committee’s proposal in the first week of the 2022 session. The map that will be unveiled Wednesday was drawn behind closed doors, but lawmakers on the committee and later in the full chambers of the Legislature can vote to change it or vote against it.

The leaders of the Redistricting Committee, Rep. Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, and Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, have said they intend to take up the issue of congressional redistricting early in the 2022 session, which convenes Jan. 4. Beckett told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal this week the goal is to take up the plan during the session’s first week.

“My hope is we take up congressional redistricting, medical marijuana and the re-enactment of the initiative process in the first week of the session,” said Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, who is a member of the redistricting committee.

A medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in 2020 and the entire initiative process allowing citizens to bypass the Legislature and place issues on the ballot were struck down by the Mississippi Supreme Court in May due to a technicality in the language enacting the initiative process. Legislative leaders have said they want to reinstate both in the 2022 session.

The state’s four congressional districts must be redrawn to match population shifts found by the 2020 U.S. Census. After both the 2000 and 2010 censuses, state legislators could not agree on a plan to redraw the congressional districts, leaving it to the federal courts to establish the districts in response to litigation.

READ MORE: Lawmakers face redistricting reality: Mississippi’s non-white population is growing

Both federal and state law require near equal representation for congressional and state legislative districts.

The reason for the need for swift action on congressional redistricting is because the deadline for candidates to qualify to run for the congressional seats is March 1. The primary election will be held June 7 and the general election will be in November.

Based on Census data, the 2nd District — the state’s lone Black majority district — saw a population loss during the past 10 years and is 65,829 people short of the ideal district size. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who represents the 2nd District, has advocated including the portion of Hinds County not currently in his district to partially offset the population loss.

READ MORE: Rep. Bennie Thompson wants all of Hinds Co. placed in his 2nd District

Federal law would require that the district be maintained as a Black majority district.

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.

Legislators are expected to take up the issue of redrawing the 52 state Senate and 122 state House districts later in the session since those seats will not be up for election until 2023.

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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.