- See also: Redistricting in Mississippi
Unresolved election issues
When on April 7, 2011, Mississippi legislators voted to adjourn for the weekend, it left redistricting still unfinished with pressing questions about the state's elections.
Speaker McCoy prepared a statement for the press reading, in part, "Never in my life did I think I would ever live to see the day that a body of this Legislature would willingly cede its authority to a federal court. But that is what the Mississippi Senate is on the verge of doing."
With no map finished in time for the June 1, 2011 filing deadline for elections, officials still planned to have Mississippi's 2011 elections be held, but the state could be forced to elect the same offices again in 2012 once a map is decided on. The state went through this process in 1991 and 1992. Doing so again would likely be a costly, embarrassing process and proof positive that the legislature failed to draw maps. Having missed its initial and extended deadlines, the legislature stood to lose control of the process to the federal courts. In early April, 2011, no one wanted to say for certain if back-to-back elections were in order.
Governor Haley Barbour could have called a special session, but his office did not indicate early if that was a likely outcome. Calling an early session would have only been wise if the parties involved believed that it could produce a map, something more or less impossible to imagine in April 2011. Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant favors a strict adherence to the Mississippi Constitution, calling for redistricting to be completed in the second year following the Census - that is, in 2012. However, a lesser know Constitutional provision empowers the legislature to "at any other time" draw maps for the House and Senate.
Congressional maps, which could easily be delayed until early 2012, were not the problem, as federal midterms elections were not until November 6, 2012. It was the looming legislative elections that demanded completed maps for the State House and Senate. Per an estimate from the office of the Mississippi Secretary of State, a second set of primaries alone could cost half a million dollars; this estimate did not consider what counties and cities would have to spend. Such a predicament could have also triggered more lawsuits. Maine was already facing a lawsuit over the decision to delay drawing maps when Census data was available, and Mississippi could have conceivably followed in that path.
Senate Democrats pushed for a vote on the resolution with the House map attached, but the majority quashed it. Soon after, 30-17, the upper chamber voted for sine die. Once the Senate adjourned for the year, Lt. Governor Bryant remarked:
"For three weeks now, we've said, 'Come and talk to us, send someone to sit down and help negotiate. We have differences that we hope can be worked out.' "It has been deafening: 'No.'"
While Barbour restated his willingness to recall lawmakers if an agreement was reached, Bryant stressed the folly of either chamber sitting without a solid agreement to vote on. Regular legislative sessions cost Mississippi approximately $20,000 a day while special session run close to $30,000 a day. Although most members of the House and Senate left Jackson and turned their attention to campaigning, a few key legislators supposedly remained to work on a plan. McCoy openly blamed Republicans for forcing the state to shoulder the cost of two legislative elections and a court battle for the sake of partisan advantage. Bryant denied ever having deliberately sought a judicial determination of redistricting and described the onerous prospect of two elections in two years as a necessary evil: "If that's what it takes to get a fair redistricting plan, I think it's a great investment Two elections would purge I think some of those old politicians that serve only their self-interests."
Democrats, however, leveled that very allegation; "I think there was an effort from the very beginning to put the issue in court, so that’s where it is," was the opinion of Thomas Reynolds.
NAACP state lawsuit
Local NAACP filed Mississippi's first 2011 redistricting lawsuit on March 1, 2011 in an effort to push the qualifying deadline for candidates in the 2011 off-year elections back 90 days, to June 1, 2011. Such a move would provide the 12 counties named in the lawsuit with time to draw county-level district boundaries, an issue of no mean importance as would-be office holders weigh entering races and consider if they meet residency requirements.
Counsel for the NAACP indicated more suits could follow. The same week, members of the legislative redistricting committee, who had already announced maps might be made available for public viewing in coming days, attempted to cool down speculation, saying they were going to take time and avoid past decades' missteps. This deliberation in releasing maps of Mississippi's new districts included the surprising admission that even lawmakers who did not sit on the redistricting committee had only seen single districts, as the statewide maps were kept under lock and key.
NAACP federal lawsuit
In response to the failure to pass a House plan, the NAACP filed Mississippi's first federal lawsuit on March 17, 2011. Representing the NAACP and three other plaintiffs was Hazelhurst-based attorney Carol Rhodes, along with one of the lead plaintiffs from the 1991 lawsuit. Hours before Rhodes brought suit, the Mississippi State Senate had voted 29-18 to invite conference from the House. Speaking to media, Rhodes echoed House Speaker's McCoy central argument, that the tradition of each house signing off on the other's map is itself reason enough for the Senate to acquiesce to the House map.
Named as defendants were the Governor (who sent an open letter to legislative Republicans urging them to fight McCoy's bill), Attorney General, and Mississippi Secretary of State, along with election commission officials. On top of seeking the removal of redistricting to the courts, the NAACP wanted an immediate restraining order to prevent any other plan from being implemented. Southern District U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan, a George W. Bush appointee, was originally set to hear the case, ultimately ruling on the NAACP petition to have a federal judge take over the entire redrawing process. The NAACP also indicated it would have its own maps ready to submit to the court within days of filing.
The lawsuit came as Speaker William McCoy confidently told media, "We're going to the Justice Department. We have nothing further to talk about with the Senate." McCoy also said he already has attorneys for the House working on a way to bypass the Senate and send his map directly to the Justice Department. Lt. Governor Bryant, President of the Senate and heavily involved in 2011 redistricting, described McCoy's tactics as "brinksmanship" and vowed the House would not pass a plan over Senate objections, saying, "I can assure you it will be done. I am not angry with anyone."
On Monday, March 21, 2011, House leaders voted to join the lawsuit, with Tommy Reynolds and his House Apportionment and Elections Committee voting 10-4 to join, a party line split. Reynolds cited the cost of holding elections twice while making it clear all legal work for the NAACP lawsuit would be privately paid.
The following week, Senate Democrats fell in line, voting in their Caucus to join the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit had been moved to a new judge after Daniel Jordan recused himself when a family member filed to run for the state legislature. Named to replace him was Carlton Reeves, appointed to the federal bench in December 2010 and, before that, an attorney in Mississippi. Notably, Reeves was the lead attorney for the state's Democratic party in the aftermath of the 2000 Census, something that caused Republicans to immediately call for the new judge to recuse himself.
Additionally, Reeves co-counsel in the 2001 legal battles, Rob McDuff, was once again representing House Democrats in 2011.
Governor Haley Barbour, for his part, released a public statement saying he was playing no official or unofficial role in redistricting, and that his sole objection to the legislative plans was over a failure to consider population growth in some counties.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann filed papers in federal court on April 1, 2011 asking a federal judge to dismiss to NAACP case, arguing that the Mississippi Constitution allowed the state to wait until 2012 to complete redistricting. If the courts accepted Hosemann's argument, it would mean the NAACP lawsuit would be dismissed as premature. The state Republican party partially backed Hosemann in an April 8, 2011 brief, which conceded the court had jurisdiction to hear the case but asked that Hosemann's argument, based on Section 254 of the state's Constitution, be given "full and careful consideration".
On the evening of April 5, 2011, a local political blog tracking the redistricting process reported rumors that there was no real chance Reeves would recuse himself. They were indeed rumors as, in an order issued late on April 11, 2011, Reeves did recuse himself.
Tom Lee became the third judge to preside over the case, notably before any arguments had actually been heard. Lee, a 1984 appointee under Ronald Reagan, was on the 1991 panel that ordered Mississippi to hold back-to-back elections.
In recusing himself, Reeves cited not his previous work as an attorney for Democrats in redistricting but his own lifetime NAACP membership and the need to maintain an appearance of impartiality, saying, "a reasonable suspicion of partiality is too great a possibility to risk." He also stressed that he had no financial interest in the NAACP and had not held any actual office in the organization since heading his college chapter a quarter century earlier.
Two Republicans, Delbert Hosemann and Phil Bryant, backed a special session in 2012, interpreting the state Constitution to allow and even mandate that. Acting independently of Mississippi's Democratic Attorney General, Hosemann, the Secretary of State, pushed his motion to dismiss, which Bryant openly endorsed.</ref>
The state's Republican party, however, came out in favor on allowing the judicial action to proceed. Attorney General Jim Hood drafted an open response to Hosemann, saying running under current boundaries after Census data were available would violate federal law, and that two elections would be an unacceptable waste of money.
NAACP lead attorney on the case Carol Rhodes challenged Bryant's take on the Constitution, saying, "The Constitution says the Legislature may redistrict at any time, which they did, February through March." Through Rhodes, the NAACP asked the court to order the Attorney General to submit the maps, including the technically unapproved House map, to the Justice Department.
On June 7, 2011, the NAACP filed notice that it would take its suit to the U.S. Supreme Court. The organization argued that the 2011 elections should be blocked because district populations were unbalanced.
Federal court panel
The legislative failure to settle on maps left the process in the hands of a panel of three federal judges. In addition to Tom Lee, also presiding over NAACP v. Haley Barbour et al, sat on the panel. Joining him were Grady Jolly and Louis Guirola. Jolly and Lee were both Reagan appointees and Guirola was named to the bench by George W. Bush.
All three judges were named by Chief Justice of the 5th Circuit Court, Edith Jones.
In mid April 2011, Senator Terry Burton filed a motion asking for Senate candidates to be allowed to run under the new map, which did pass both maps, leaving only the contested House map up to the court.
Lieutenant Governor Bryant went on the offensive, assuring Mississippians that judiciary scrutiny would be fair, telling attendees at a Hattiesburg meeting, "They don't care about political opponents, they don't care about political opportunities, they only care about the constitution I believe and what the plans should look like. And I think all of Mississippi can live with that."
On the outside chance that an agreement could be reached in time for Barbour to recall the legislature, Senator Burton and Representative Reynolds continued working to tweak the map enough to make a special session worthwhile. Burton, through his own counsel, Andy Taggert, asked the panel to separate the Senate map, which had been approved, from the House map, which had never passed the Senate. When asked how the GOP would react to a court order that unapproved maps be submitted to the Justice Department, a Republican party attorney replied, "You'll get a lawsuit". Such stances had some merit, as the state's Constitution explicitly says maps are to be approved by both chambers before being used.
Judge Lee ordered all parties involved in the lawsuit to appear before him on the morning of Friday, April 22, 2011. At the same time, Governor Barbour had expressed continued willingness to recall legislators and some leaders were quietly working on a compromise. After the day's hearing, Judge Lee offered no immediate indication of his ruling.
At that status hearing, Robert McDuff, attorney for the House Republicans, and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood both argued for "placeholder" elections in 2011; McDuff pressed for special elections under new maps in 2012 while Hood suggested drawing new maps for use in 2015 or even 2019. Hood added that paying for two elections would ultimately cost taxpayers less than paying for a protracted court battle. By the day of the hearing, the state had already covered $200,000 in legal costs.
Two other options were put forward; first, to approve the contested maps on an "interim" basis, a position primarily supported by Democrats, and secondly to turn the project over to an expert, a so-called "special master", something sought by the state's Republican party and by Governor Haley Barbour. In addition, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was still pushing for doing nothing at all judicially and allowing the legislature to resume the matter in 2012.
If the judges opted for back-to-back elections, they still lacked the power to order Governor Barbour to call such a special election.
There was, however, at least one laugh in the packed chambers. When Republican attorney Michale Wallace was asked how he felt about leaving the entire matter to the U.S. Justice Department, he answered, "My friends in the Justice Department all lost their jobs", eliciting bipartisan laughter.
The first hint of where the panel might come down was a statement issued on Friday, April 29, 2011, saying the judges were "inclined to issue an order" compelling Mississippi to hold its 2011 elections under the maps each chamber had created for its own districts. Such a ruling was explained as the best possible interim solution given that all parties agreed the existing maps were inadequate and given the looming June 1, 2011 qualifying deadline for primaries.
That same weekend, Secretary of State Hosemann reiterated his preference for allowing the legislature to resume the task in 2012 in an open editorial. In part, he stated, "The decision does not pass constitutional muster, is short-sighted and sets a bad precedent for future redistricting."
The court, meanwhile, wanted an interim plan in place by the first on June.
Second hearing and decision
The second hearing was set for Tuesday, May 10, 2011 and had a May 5, 2011 deadline to submit evidence. The GOP continued to push for maps drawn by an outside expert, something that was, by that point, an uphill battle.
Immediately after the hearing, the panel had no decision. While the state's politicos waited to hear, blogs speculated wildly; according to one source, the Mississippi Republican Party quietly backed Secretary Hosemann's position and held that the NAACP and the Democratic Party had planned the lawsuit together. Hosemann continued to argue that implementing the new maps would take at least two months, time Mississippi's counties did not have. The court, while working on its ruling, continued to stress that it would minimize intrusion into state politics.
The ruling was handed down on Monday, May 16, 2011. Mississippi actually got two choices - an ultimatum rather than a simple order. However, given that they were ordered to craft a workable map immediately or run under the current maps, many were unhappy with the ruling. The ruling stipulated that any new maps would have to earn pre-clearance from the Justice Department by June 1, 2011. It also specifically said the legislature could craft new maps in their 2012 session. The ruling also affected county-level elections. Attorney General Jim Hood was also ordered to act as a liaison and keep the panel apprised of the legislature's progress going forward.
In ruling, the panel noted they had indeed changed their position from the aftermath of the first hearing, when they publicly shared that they were inclined to order elections be held under the newly drawn but not passed maps. In part, they said:
We observe that our order seems to comport with everyone's 'second choice.' That — perhaps irrelevant — point aside, we are certain that it is the most respectful of all proposals to the principles of federalism, to the unchallenged laws of the State of Mississippi, to the holdings of the Supreme Court of the United States, and to the proper placement of responsibility for reapportionment — the Legislature of the State of Mississippi".
Prominent state Republicans, Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, State Treasurer Tate Reeves, and Senator Billy Hewes among them, roundly applauded the decision. Hosemann touched on the win for states right implied in the decision while, on the other side, the NAACP only said that its lawyers were reviewing the decision. Right leaning advocacy groups, such as the Mississippi Tea Party, also lauded the ruling.
The practical implication of the decision was, first, a special session sometime in late 2011 to have a fresh go at legislative districts and to address the state's four Congressional seats. Constitutionally, the legislature may handle redistricting anytime before the end of 2012.
The ruling allowed 2011 elections to go forward but did not settle what would happen in 2012 or after. The panel reserved the privilege of deciding if a special election would be held in 2012, though it was also possible someone would bring a lawsuit seeking to force just such an outcome. The cost of a special election sat against the unpalatable idea of holding onto districts drawn with 2000 data until the 2015 legislative elections. Rob McDugg, counsel to the House Appropriations Committee, did recommend to the panel that they, "should try to avoid the expense of a special election next year".
At least two key players in redistricting, Senator Terry Burton and Representative Tommy Reynolds, publicly urged Governor Barbour to call a special session. However, that outcome appeared unlikely from the beginning; this sentiment was reaffirmed when the Governor quickly said, through a spokesman, that he would not be invoking that privilege.
A local political scientist averred that, one way or another, the matter would resolved without going to the same stakes as happened in 1991; the reason, he said, was that the 1991 mess was over race, an issue replaced with partisan battles in 2011. "People are irrational about race. They are normally rational, if not self serving, about partisanship".
The GOP notched up an unexpected victory at the end of May when, days ahead of the qualifying deadline for candidates, the architect of the state House map, Speaker Billy McCoy, announced he would not run for re-election. "There is a season for everything. I am confident there is a season for me after legislative service," McCoy wrote. "By God's grace, I am planning on spending more time in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachians with my family and friends".
On Tuesday, June 7, 2011, Mississippi's NAACP filed notice of its intention to appeal the decision before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In October 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling that old districts could be used in 2011 elections.
In October 2012, the state NAACP filed a federal lawsuit asking for the results of the 2011 election to be thrown out, and for special elections to be held under a court-drawn map. Lower courts ruled against the NAACP, and on May 20, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling without comment.
- ↑ Clarion ledger, "Mississippi lawmakers end session without redistricting", April 7, 2011
- ↑ Commercial Appeal, "Mississippi lawmakers go home; leave redistricting unresolved", April 7, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Session ends without solution on redistricting", April 7, 2011
- ↑ WTOK News Center 11, "Jones, Carmichael on Redistricting", April 8, 2011
- ↑ Jackson Free Press, "Senate Flubs Redistricting", April 8, 2011
- ↑ WLBT.com, "District lines headed to court", April 8, 2011
- ↑ Stateline, "In Mississippi, new Republican power collides with black quest for seats", April 12, 2011
- ↑ Hattiesburg American "Suit filed over redistricting," March 17, 2011
- ↑ my601.com, "NAACP Files Redistricting Lawsuit", March 1, 2011
- ↑ The Sun Herald, "Lawmaker: ‘We’re not going to rush’ redistricting maps", February 28, 2011
- ↑ NAACP.com, "NAACP sues MS Gov, Barbour over legislative redistricting impasse to protect minority voting rights", March 18, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger "Watkins redistricting plaintiff for 2nd time," May 8, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger "Federal court to review remap," March 17, 2011
- ↑ New Orleans Times Picayune, "NAACP files suit over Mississippi redistricting", March 18, 2011
- ↑ The Memphis Commercial Appeal, "Mississippi legislators still at odds over redistricting plan", March 17, 2011
- ↑ The Clarion Ledger, "Miss. House leaders to join redistricting suit", March 21, 2011
- ↑ Hattiesburg American "Redistricting lawsuit grows," April 1, 2011
- ↑ Stamford Advocate, "Miss. redistricting suit moved to new US judge", March 30, 2011
- ↑ Jackson Jambalaya, "Judge Jordan Recuses Himself", March 30, 2011
- ↑ Picayune Item, "Reeves confirmed as US judge for south Mississippi", December 21, 2010
- ↑ Stamford Advocate, "Miss. redistricting suit moved to new US judge", March 30, 2011
- ↑ Real Clear Politics, "Miss. House panel votes to join remapping lawsuit", March 23, 2011
- ↑ Jackson Free Press, "Reeves to Rule on Redistricting", March 31, 2011
- ↑ Natchez Democrat, "NAACP argues for court to dive in", April 8 2011
- ↑ Madison County Journal, "GOP sides with NAACP on state redistricting", April 20, 2011
- ↑ Majority in MS, "Tuesday Evening Redistricting Notebook", April 5, 2011
- ↑ Y'all Politics, "Redistricting Game Changer - Carlton Reeves recuses himself from case - UPDATE Tom Lee will preside", April 11, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger "Remap suit assigned to Lee," April 12, 2011
- ↑ The Republic, "US Judge Reeves recuses himself from NAACP lawsuit filed over Mississippi redistricting", April 12, 2011
- ↑ Natchez Democrat "NAACP to appeal in election suit," June 21, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "3-judge panel chosen in Mississippi redistricting lawsuit", April 14, 2011
- ↑ Majority in MS, "Thursday Morning Redistricting Notes", April 14, 2011
- ↑ WDAM "Phil Bryant addresses redistricting in Hattiesburg," April 18, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Remap: Legislature should do its job", April 19, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Remap talks, suit proceed", April 18, 2011
- ↑ The Republic, "Hood argues to hold Miss. legislative elections with maps proposed in '11 session; GOP says no", April 22, 2011
- ↑ WTOK "Status Update on Miss. Redistricting," April 22, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Mississippi redistricting battle moves to court", April 22, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger "3 options presented to court in conference on NAACP's redistricting suit," April 22, 2011
- ↑ MBPNews, "Mississippi Redistricting Hits the Federal Court", April 22, 2011
- ↑ Desoto Times, "Remap lawmakers' domain", April 27, 2011
- ↑ Times Union "US judges hear Miss. redistricting case arguments," April 22, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger "3-judge panel proposes elections be held using maps drawn in session," April 29, 2011
- ↑ Mississippi Press, "It's a terrible idea to turn to the federal courts (letter)", May 1, 2011
- ↑ Memphis Commercial Appeal, "Mississippi Secretary of State unhappy with judges’ redistricting plan", May 2, 2011
- ↑ Jackson Free Press, "Court Prefers Democrat-endorsed House Redistricting", May 2, 2011
- ↑ Clairon Ledger "Redistricting: A neutral panel?" May 5, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "GOP pushes to have expert redraw district maps", May 8, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger "No immediate ruling in Miss. redistricting case," May 10, 2011
- ↑ Majority in MS, "MSGOP Offers Comments On Redistricting", may 10, 2011
- ↑ Majority in MS, "Republicans Fumbled On Redistricting", May 10, 2011
- ↑ MBPNews, "Federal Court Hears Arguments on Redistricting Battle", May 10, 2011
- ↑ DeSoto Times, "Judges rule to postpone redistricting", May 17, 2011
- ↑ The Neshoba Democrat, "Legislature running on existing lines", May 18, 2011
- ↑ Daily Journal, "Panel: Mississippi lawmakers can run in current districts or immediately draw new maps", May 16, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Existing county maps OK'd for elections", May 17, 2011
- ↑ Majority in MS, "Republican Reaction To Redistricting Ruling", May 16, 2011
- ↑ Mississippi Business Journal, "Hosemann releases statement on redistricting ruling", May 17, 2011
- ↑ GulfLive.com, "Mississippi redistricting ruling: Candidates will run under current lines, but fight looks far from over", May 17, 2011
- ↑ Fire McCoy, "Mississippi Tea Party release on redistricting ruling", May 17, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Miss. Tea Party endorses ruling", May 18, 2011
- ↑ The Republic, "Congressional redistricting likely to need extra session", May 17, 2011
- ↑ WLOX13, "Court rules on Mississippi's redistricting battle", May 16, 2011
- ↑ Clarion Ledger, "Redistricting: Status quo of inequity", May 17, 2011
- ↑ The Dispatch, "Scott Colom: Redistricting questions still unanswered", May 18, 2011
- ↑ The Republic, "Unlike '91, what comes after Mississippi remap ruling still unclear", May 19, 2011
- ↑ Mississippi State News, "Redistricting Leaders Call For Special Session", May 19, 2011
- ↑ The Daily Journal, "Spokeswoman: Barbour has no intention of calling special remap session", May 20, 2011
- ↑ Sun Herald, "Barbour nixes special session", May 20, 2011
- ↑ Picayune Item, "Legislators will run in current districts, it seems", May 21, 2011
- ↑ The Dispatch, "Redistricting dispute will be resolved, expert says", May 20, 2011
- ↑ The Memphis Commercial Appeal, "Mississippi House Speaker Billy McCoy will not seek re-election", May 25, 2011
- ↑ Jackson Clarion Ledger, "NAACP taking Mississippi redistricting fight to U.S. Supreme Court", June 8, 2011
- ↑ The Republic "Court won't get involved in fight over redistricting in Mississippi," October 31, 2011
- ↑ Associated Press, "Supreme Court Declines To Get Involved In Mississippi Redistricting," May 20, 2013. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
- ↑ Associated Press, "High court lets Mississippi election districts stand," May 20, 2013. Retrieved May 31, 2013.