Mississippi legislature to tackle new district maps
By: Stephan Burklin
The state’s redistricting chairmen, Sen. Merle Flowers (R) and Rep. William Denny, Jr. (R), told the Associated Press that the proposed new district maps should be released and voted upon within the next few weeks.
Every 10 years after the Census, the state’s 122 House districts and 52 Senate districts are updated to account for population changes.
State law requires compact and contiguous districts that capture equal proportions of the state population to minimize manipulation, but legislators still retain considerable latitude to carve districts to boost their party’s electoral prospects. Lawmakers attempted to complete new maps prior to the 2011 elections but were ultimately unsuccessful. Because lawmakers in Mississippi serve 4-year terms, the new maps likely will not go into effect until the 2015 elections.
Because of Mississippi’s history of racial discrimination, the U.S. Justice Department is required to approve the new maps to ensure that minority voting strength is not unfairly diluted.
Flowers and Denny said they’ve been meeting privately over the past several months with demographers, attorneys, and other lawmakers to try to draw districts that are acceptable to all parties involved.