Mississippi’s Political Lineup
The legislative deadline is during the regular session of the second year following the census; the congressional deadline is 30 days prior to convening of the next regular session following the release of census data. If legislative districts are not drawn by the deadline, a special session of the legislature is required to convene. Upon the legislature’s failure to district in special session, a special commission must redistrict. The special commission consists of the secretary of state, the president pro-tem of the senate, the speaker of the house, the attorney general, and chief justice of the state supreme court, who sits as chair. There is no statutory provision governing what to do if the congressional district deadline is not met.
Who’s in Charge of Redistricting?
The legislature is in charge of both congressional and legislative redistricting, but a special commission is available as a back-up. The Standing Joint Committee on Reapportionment handles legislative district lines, and the Standing Joint Committee on Congressional Redistricting is responsible for congressional districting. The governor only has veto power over congressional district plans.
Public hearings are held around the state where citizens can testify before the committee. There are also public hearings held in Jackson before the final drafting of a redistricting plan. Citizens also have access to a public terminal where they can draft their own plans through legislative services. The legislature has a website with a schedule of hearings and other information.
Political LandscapeEvery congressional district but the black-majority 2nd district leans Republican, but Democrats hold a 3-2 majority in the U.S. House. This is due to conservative Democrats Gene Taylor and Ronnie Shows’ performances despite the Republican vote increasing in 1996 at the presidential level in each district. Democratic control of redistricting in 2001-2 -- secured with Ronnie Musgrove's narrow win in 1999 -- thus is important for their continued success, particularly since the state is losing a congressional seat and two incumbents must face one another.
The Mississippi legislature's 1991 legislative district plan was denied preclearance by the Department of Justice and was subject to a minority vote dilution challenge under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by black legislators and civil rights activists. A federal district court considered several different plans by the legislature and the plaintiffs. A resolution was not reached in time for regular state elections scheduled in 1991, and the court refused to draw its own plan for the interim. Instead, the court directed state elections to be held under the now-malapportioned 1982 plan. The elected candidates under the 1982 plan were required to run again in 1992 for three-year terms once a final plan was settled. A final plan was approved by the court, precleared by the Department of Justice, and enacted by the legislature in time for the Mississippi primary elections in 1992. The civil rights plaintiffs did not have their ideal version of the plan enacted, but did successfully compel the Mississippi legislature to present a plan more amiable to their interests. Thus, the court ruled that they prevailed as plaintiffs.
James F. (Ted) Booth