The Mississippi Legislature is a gubernatorial signature away from doing what it has not been able to accomplish since the early 1990s: pass a plan to redraw the state’s U.S. House districts.
The Mississippi Senate, by a 33-18 vote Wednesday, approved the congressional redistricting proposal that was passed earlier this session by the House. The plan now goes to Gov. Tate Reeves, who can choose to sign it into law or veto it.
(Editor’s note: The new congressional map can be found at the bottom of this story.)
After both the 2000 and 2010 U.S. censuses, the state’s congressional districts were redrawn by the federal courts after the Legislature could not agree on a plan because of partisan bickering.
There also were partisan differences this year, but the Republicans’ grasp on the legislative process is firm enough to stifle any Democratic objections.
In the Senate, as was the case in the House last week, Democrats opposed the Republican plan to expand the African American majority District 2 almost the length of the state from Tunica County in northwest Mississippi all the way to the Louisiana border in southwest Mississippi. District 2, if the plan is signed into law, will encompass 40% of the landmass of the state.
Senate Pro Tem Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, who presented the Republican plan, said the proposed District 2 maintained “communities of interest” since the district would run along the Mississippi River on the western side of the state.
“We were trying go with what the courts drew (in the past) as much as possible,” Kirby said, adding the plan is fair and that no incumbent congressmen gets everything he wanted in the proposal.
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The state’s longest serving U.S. representative, Bennie Thompson, who also is African American and the sole Democrat in the delegation, had proposed that all of Hinds County be included in his District 2. But the Republicans rejected that proposal.
Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, said Thompson, who is from Hinds County, should be able to represent all of his home county like the three white, Republican incumbents are able to do.
Of the Republican plan, Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, said, “it makes a person like me (an African American) wonder.”
Sen. Angela Turner Ford, D-West Point, offered a plan that was rejected by the Republican majority that would have included a portion of fast growing DeSoto County and all of Hinds in Thompson’s District 2.
All of the proposals strived to maintain a District 2 with a Black population around 60%. Turner Ford’s proposal also increased the Black voting-age population of District 3, located primarily in east Mississippi, from the low 30 percent level to 37%.
“It represents an opportunity for those individuals who are part of the Black voting-age population to have more influence and a greater voice in Congressional District 3,” said Turner-Ford, who is Black.
All of the chamber’s 16 Democrats opposed the plan offered by the Republican majority. Two Republicans — Melanie Sojourner of Natchez and Chris McDaniel of Ellisville — voted against the Republican plan. Sojourner represents portions of southwest Mississippi that are being moved from District 3 to District 2 under the Republican plan.