A congressional redistricting bill has passed in the Mississippi House of Representatives. But opponents raised concerns over how the map would change the state’s second district.
Mississippi’s second congressional district will expand geographically to compensate for population decline reported in the 2020 U.S. Census. This district covers the majority of the Mississippi Delta, and is primarily rural with majority-Black residents. Republican Speaker Pro-Tem Jason White of Holmes County says the bill followed guidelines set up by the courts who have intervened in the redistricting process the past two decades.
“This plan meets the criteria that the joint house and senate committee adopted as guidelines for developing a new plan,” says White. “It complies with one person one vote, the constitution, all the districts are contiguous, complies with section two of the voting rights act, and adheres as closely as possible to the neutral redistricting factors that have been used by the federal courts in drawing our last two plans.”
Democratic House Minority Leader Robert Johnson of Natchez objected to the measure. He says the plan would expand the second district to encompass around 40% of the state but not include the entirety of Hinds County. Johnson submitted an amendment to the redistricting bill originally drafted by the NAACP that would meet the population requirements for the second district by drawing lines to encompass all of hinds county.
“For a congressman that votes and supports Hinds County. Doesn’t vote against the Hinds County interest,” says Johnson. “You also add parts of southern Madison County. People are moving and transitioning everywhere. They could have added parts of DeSoto County and still kept a fair and balanced district. But nobody wanted to do that.”
The amendment was not adopted, and the redistricting bill passed 76-42 votes along party lines. Even if the proposed plan is approved, the NAACP or other opponents could ask a federal court to consider whether the new districts dilute the influence of Black voters.