House Republicans pass congressional redistricting plan

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The 2nd Congressional Dis­trict will meander the almost length of the state along the Mississippi River under the congressional redistricting plan approved 76-42 Thursday by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

The plan approved last Thursday was created by a joint redistricting committee composed of legislators ap­pointed by Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn and Re­publican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.

The House plan was ex­pected to be taken up this week in the Senate. If it passes there, it will be sent to Gov. Tate Reeves, who can sign it into law or veto it.

Republicans enjoy a super­majority in both the House and Senate, meaning they can pass redrawn district maps and other key legislation with­out a single Democratic vote.

House Democrats, who op­pose the plan, said it created a district too large for incum­bent 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson — or any­one — to adequately repre­sent. The proposed district would move a large portion of southwest Mississippi from the 3rd to 2nd District.

Rep. Robert Johnson, the House Democratic leader from Natchez, a city that would be affected, offered an alternative plan that would have moved all of Hinds County and a portion of southern Madison County from the 3rd to the 2nd but left southwest Mississippi in the 3rd.

The alternative offered by Johnson and the Democrats was defeated along party lines. The plan offered by the Republican leadership was passed along party lines.

Johnson said the plan of­fered by the Republican lead­ership “certainly is not compact. The district is al­most 300 miles long, takes up nearly half the state. It is al­most impossible for one con­gressman to represent the district.”

The district includes 40 of the state’s 82 counties and 40% of the land mass of the state.

House Pro Tem Jason White, R-West, who is on the Redis­tricting Committee and of­fered the proposal to the House, said redrawing the congressional districts was made more difficult because the 2nd District, which in­cludes most of the Delta and portions of the Jackson metro area, lost 65,000 people. The other three districts all had slight population increases with the 4th, which includes the Gulf Coast, growing the most at nearly 5%.

White said the plan offered by Johnson splits fast-growing Madison County, which he did not want to do. On the other hand, White said it made sense to split Hinds, the of population and also home to Jackson, the state’s capital city.

But Johnson countered southwest Mississippi, where he lives, depends on oil, tim­ber and cattle like areas of the 3rd, while the current 2nd consisted of areas of metro Hinds County and the soy­bean, cotton crops and other crops of the Delta.

Thompson, the state’s lone Democratic and Black con­gressmen, had voiced support for moving all of Hinds into his 2nd District. Guest of the 3rd District opposed the move. The plan offered by Johnson is essentially the same plan proposed by the state chapter of the NAACP.

Both the plan offered by the House Republican leadership and the plan offered by John­son maintained the 2nd Dis­trict with an African American population of more than 60%. To significantly reduce the African American population in the district would run afoul of current federal law.

The plan approved by the House moves Adams, Amite, Franklin and Walthall counties in southwest Mississippi to District 2. The only river county not in District 2 under the plan is DeSoto, a Republi­can-heavy suburb of Memphis in northwest Mississippi.

The state must redistrict every 10 years to adhere to population shifts gleaned by the decennial census, based on both federal and state laws. But after both the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the Legis­lature was unable to agree on a U.S House redistricting plan, leaving it to the federal courts to draw the districts. Legisla­tive leaders have vowed not to let that occur this year.

The redistricting plan is the first piece of legislation taken up in the 2022 session which convened earlier this week. The reason for the urgency to take up the congressional plan is that elections are slated later this year and the deadline for candidates to qualify to run for the congres­sional seats is March 1. Legis­lators are expected to take up a plan to redraw their own 174 House and Senate dis­tricts later in the session since their elections are not until 2023.





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