Mississippi lawsuit challenges state’s legislative districts

The Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP and five Mississippi voters filed a lawsuit in federal district court on Dec. 20 challenging the state’s newly enacted legislative district map. The suit alleges that the boundaries the legislature enacted in March 2022 violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act and “illegally dilute the voting strength of Black Mississippians and improperly use voters’ race to achieve partisan goals and protect incumbent politicians.”

The suit also argues that “Mississippi’s Black population could support at least four additional Black-majority Senate districts and at least three additional Black-majority House districts in several areas across the State, where 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.”

Mississippi enacted new state legislative district boundaries on March 31, 2022, when both legislative chambers approved district maps for the other chamber. Legislative redistricting in Mississippi is done via a joint resolution and did not require Gov. Tate Reeves’ (R) approval.

When the legislature adopted the new maps, Emily Wagster Pettus of the Associated Press wrote that “Republican legislative leaders said the redistricting plans are likely to maintain their party’s majority in each chamber.” Pettus also wrote that “Senate President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby of Pearl said the Senate redistricting plan keeps the same number of Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning districts as now.”

Redistricting of the state Senate was approved by the Senate on March 29 by a vote of 45-7, with 31 Republicans and 14 Democrats in favor and five Republicans and two Democrats voting against. The state House approved the Senate’s district boundaries on March 31 by a vote of 68-49. Sixty-two Republicans, three Democrats, and three independents voted in favor, and 35 Democrats and 14 Republicans voted against.

The Mississippi House of Representatives approved new House district boundaries on March 29 by an 81-38 vote. Seventy-three Republicans, five Democrats, and three independents voted to enact the new map, and 36 Democrats and two Republicans voted against it. The Mississippi Senate approved the House map—41 to 8—on March 31, with 34 Republicans and seven Democrats voting in favor and all eight votes against by Democrats.

Mississippi voters will decide elections for all 52 state Senate seats and all 122 state House of Representatives seats in 2023. The qualifying period for prospective state legislative candidates begins on Jan. 3, 2023, and ends on Feb. 1, 2023.

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