ACLU, SPLC say it’s time to change Mississippi’s 35-year-old Supreme Court districts

The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center say it’s time to change the state’s 35-year-old Supreme Court districts.
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 2:36 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center say it’s time to change the state’s 35-year-old Supreme Court districts, saying the current lines dilute the Black vote.

“Thirty-five years ago, Black lawmakers objected to the current districts. The lack of proper representation today is evidence that they were right in their objection,” said Jarvis Dortch, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “It’s past time to correct these unlawful maps.”

ACLU and SPLC filed suit on behalf of business and civic leader Dyamone White, Army veteran and Georgetown Law graduate Ty Pinkins, educator Constance Slaughter Harvey-Burwell and Mississippi Senate Minority Leader Sen. Derrick Simmons.

“As an educator and a parent, it is imperative to me that our government institutions represent all of us. Our young people should be able to see themselves reflected in their representatives,” Harvey-Burwell said. “That includes in the Mississippi Supreme Court.”

Plaintiffs are seeking to have the lines redrawn so that Black voters can have equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. As it stands, none of the three Supreme Court districts are drawn to include a Black voting age majority, according to the ACLU’s news release.

Ari Savitzky, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, says the current lines violate federal law. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act makes it unlawful to deny minority groups an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

They argue the current District 1, which includes Jackson and parts of the Delta, “could easily be redrawn” to have a majority Black voting-age population.

Only four Black justices have been elected to Mississippi’s highest court since residents started voting for supreme court justices a century ago, the ACLU’s news release states. That’s despite the fact that the state’s current population is nearly 40 percent African-American.

“Mississippi’s Supreme Court districts dilute the voice and the votes of Black Mississippians in violation of federal law,” said Savitzky. “Mississippi can and must do better. The Supreme Court of Mississippi should reflect the people of Mississippi.”

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