Miss. lawmakers accused of gerrymandering; lawsuit filed asking district maps be redrawn

Published: Dec. 24, 2022 at 1:54 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Lawmakers in the Magnolia State are being accused of gerrymandering.

A lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Mississippi’s Chapter of the NAACP, challenges the state’s legislative district maps.

African Americans make up roughly 38-percent of the state’s population, but, according to the lawsuit, the latest district maps don’t reflect that.

The lawsuit states that the African American population could support at least four more Senate districts and three more House districts.

The ACLU believes this is an attempt to deny African Americans political power.

“Black voters, despite their numbers, and despite voting cohesively, have previously been unable to elect candidates of their choice, in large part due to the prevalence of racially polarized voting,” the lawsuit reads.

Now, Joshua Tom, legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, is asking for the maps to be redrawn.

“They released the maps fully formed and quickly voted on it, so the level of transparency for the development and passage of these maps was very little, if any,” said Tom.

According to the lawsuit, current districts in the House and Senate were drawn to take away the strength of African American voters in the state.

As a result, Tom believes the state doesn’t have a government that fairly and accurately reflects Mississippi.

“If you have a group of Black residents in Mississippi who are sufficiently large to represent their community of choice, one way to prevent that is to break that group of people into two or more districts,” said Tom. “So, instead of representing, say, 50 or 51-percent of the population in a certain district, they only represent 20-percent or 30-percent.”

One of the map drawings being called into question is the South-Central Senate District. It contains six Senate districts; two of them being majority-Black districts.

The lawsuit states that the maps split a majority-Black district in Copiah County, and packs sizable African American populations in Claiborne, Jefferson, and Franklin Counties all into one, making up over 61-percent of the district.

Tom said an additional majority-Black district could have been drawn anchored in Copiah, Simpson, and Jefferson Davis Counties.

“Say you had a concentration of Black voters in part of the state that was sufficient to elect two representatives. but instead of drawing it so that group could elect two representatives, you put all of those people in one district, so they are only able to elect one representative,” said Tom.

Now that the lawsuit has been filed, Tom said he is optimistic the district maps will get redrawn to fairly and accurately reflect the state.

“You could have more candidates of choice of Black voters in the State House and the State Senate, and also possibly at the statewide level, if you drew fair lines.”

The maps that are being challenged are the same maps that will be used in the 2023 election. Tom said the maps wouldn’t be redrawn unless the courts making a ruling in the case.

Governor Tate Reeves is one of the defendants listed in the lawsuit.

We reached out to his office for a comment, we are still waiting to hear back.

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