Hattiesburg wins redistricting lawsuit

Hattiesburg wins redistricting lawsuit

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The City of Hattiesburg recently won a lawsuit against Hattiesburg resident Reverend Kenneth Fairley, Sr. for its redistricting plan.

Fairley and others claimed the city's redistricting plan violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by "diluting the voting power of Hattiesburg's African-American citizens such that they have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice."

The court, however, ruled that the current ward plan in Hattiesburg does not diminish African-American voters' voting or political power under the Voting Rights Act.

Since the city went to a mayor-council form of government in 1985, the five-member city council has been made up of three white members and two black members, reflecting the racial makeup of those wards. Wards 1, 3 and 4 are predominantly white, while wards 2 and 5 are predominantly black. However, the city's 2010 census shows just over 53 percent of Hattiesburg citizens are "single-race African-American."

Those census numbers are why Fairley and the supporting plaintiffs believe the population is large and geographically compact enough to have a majority of the wards, rather than just two. In addition, the plaintiffs challenged the number of University of Southern Mississippi students registered to vote in Hattiesburg, who are primarily situated in Ward 1, according to the lawsuit.

Fairley filed the lawsuit in February 2013.

To read a copy of the opinion, click here.