Senate redistricting plan seen as a way to reduce Black voting strength

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JANS – Thirty years ago, Mississippi legislators worked together to enact a judicial redistricting plan that increased the opportunities for Black voters to elect trial court judges and district attorneys of their choice.

Last week, leaders in the State Senate released a comprehensive judicial redistricting plan that, for the first time since 1994, would substantially alter the state’s circuit and chancery court districts. 

“The Senate plan completely missed the mark,” says Jarvis Dortch, ACLU-MS Executive Director. “Despite the growth of Mississippi’s Black population, the proposal, inserted in House Bill 722, would greatly reduce opportunities for Black voters to elect circuit court judges and district attorneys of their choice.”

 Dortch said the Senate’s plan would significantly alter the judiciary in the Mississippi Delta and southwest portion of the state, even changing the composition of some circuit districts in a way that reduces Black voting strength.  “While the Delta and SW Mississippi are indeed losing residents, the overall Black population has grown in Mississippi, while the white population has shrunk.”

 There has also been zero opportunities for the public to weigh in on the redistricting plan. The Senate Judiciary A Committee released the proposal, debated, and passed it out of committee in a span of 10 minutes. 

 “It is essential that the judges in our trial courts mirror the diversity of their communities. It’s not just about the numbers; it’s about ensuring a fair and equal distribution of voting power and the crucial role of a fair and representative judiciary,” said Dortch.

Considering the present lack of diversity and the fact that Mississippi’s Black population has increased, advocates strongly oppose a redistricting plan that would actually reduce the number of opportunities Black voters have to elect judges or district attorneys of their choice. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that the Senate Plan violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

“We urge the Legislature to take a step back, hold public hearings, and develop a redistricting plan that more fully reflects our state’s diversity,” concluded Dortch.

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Senate redistricting plan seen as a way to reduce Black voting strength

By Jackson Advocate News Service
April 14, 2024