Attorney Waverly Harkins takes a cell phone photograph of the expanded view of newly proposed congressional boundaries between Hinds and Madison counties following a meeting of the Joint Congressional Redistricting and Legislative Reapportionment Committees at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The Mississippi Legislature, for the first time since the early 1990s, has redrawn the four U.S. districts to match population shifts found by the federal Census.

Gov. Tate Reeves this week signed into law the redistricting bill approved by the Legislature to complete the process. After both the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the Legislature could not agree on a plan to redraw the congressional districts. After lawsuits were filed, the federal judiciary stepped in to draw the districts.

The plan approved earlier this session by the Legislature and signed by Reeves was passed along a party line vote, with most in the minority Democrat Party rejecting the proposal.

District 2 will now run nearly the entire length of the state with Adams, Amite, Franklin and Walthall counties in southwest Mississippi being added to the district. The district now extends from Tunica in northwest Mississippi to the Louisiana-Mississippi border in southwest Mississippi. The only county that borders the Mississippi River not in the district is heavily Republican DeSoto County.

District 2, which is the state’s only Black-majority district, is the only one of the state’s four congressional districts to lose population since 2010 — more than 9% or about 65,000 people.

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

Based on federal and state law, the districts have to be redrawn to ensure near equal population representation.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, had proposed that all his home county of Hinds be placed in District 2 to maintain some compactness for the district. Legislative Republicans rejected that proposal, choosing to leave several majority-white neighborhoods in Jackson in District 3, which is a majority-white district.

The plan signed by Reeves is likely to result in maintaining the current partisan breakdown of three Republicans and one Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation.

Some believed that if the Thompson plan had prevailed, District 3 might have been slightly more competitive that it is now. Under the Thompson plan, Black voters would not have been a majority in District 3, but they would have had more influence than under the proposal ultimately signed into law. This reality could set the stage for a potential lawsuit from civil rights groups.

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

District 3 is currently represented by Republican Michael Guest, who state legislators said opposed moving all of Hinds County into District 2.

Under the plan approved by the Legislature, District 2 will have an African American population of a little more than 61%. Federal law most likely would mandate that Mississippi, the state with the nation’s highest Black population, maintain an African American majority district.

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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.