Mississippi plan seeks to increase black voting strength

The Mississippi Senate on Tuesday adopted a plan to increase the black voting age population in one of its districts, bidding to satisfy a federal court order in a gerrymandering lawsuit.

Posted: Mar 27, 2019 10:34 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Senate on Tuesday adopted a plan to increase the black voting age population in one of its districts, bidding to satisfy a federal court order in a gerrymandering lawsuit.

The plan goes to the House for further consideration. It would affect two of the 52 state Senate districts — one that's the subject of a lawsuit and another beside it in the rural flatlands of the Delta.

Three black plaintiffs sued the state in July over the composition of Senate District 22, which stretches through parts of six counties, including poor and mostly black parts of the Delta into the affluent and mostly white Jackson suburbs of Madison County. It has a 51 percent black voting-age population and a white senator, Republican Buck Clarke of Hollandale.

Plaintiffs' attorneys said that because of Mississippi's history of racial discrimination, the district lacks a large enough black majority to give African-American residents a realistic chance to elect a candidate of their choice.

A federal judge ruled in February that the current Senate District 22 dilutes black voting strength. A federal appeals court upheld that ruling March 15 and told lawmakers to redraw the district and any others that might need to be adjusted to increase the black voting age population in District 22.

The plan that advanced Tuesday would swap some precincts between District 22 and neighboring District 13, which has a 69 percent black voting age population and a black Democratic senator, Willie Simmons of Cleveland.

Clarke and Simmons are not seeking re-election this year. Instead, Clarke is running for state treasurer and Simmons is running for northern district transportation commissioner.

"This was the proposal that least affects senators ... and voting precincts," said Senate President Pro Tempore Gray Tollison, a Republican from Oxford.

The plan would move three Sunflower County precincts from District 13 to District 22, and five Bolivar County precincts from District 22 to District 13.

That would set black voting age populations of 58 percent in District 22 and 62 percent in District 13.

Simmons told Senate colleagues on Tuesday that black residents would have a chance to elect a candidate of their choice in the two new districts.

"I'm very supportive of the plan," Simmons said.

One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Rob McDuff, said he and other attorneys in the case will evaluate the plan.

African-Americans make up about 38 percent of Mississippi's population and hold 25 percent of the seats in the state Senate. That is 13 of the 52 seats, the highest number ever in a state where the white power structure for decades used poll taxes, literacy tests and violence to suppress black people's voting rights. The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated some of those barriers, and African-Americans challenged legislative districts that diluted the power of black voters.

Mississippi's current legislative district lines were set in 2012 and have been used since the 2015 legislative elections.

All of Mississippi legislative seats are up for election this year, and the candidates' qualifying deadline was March 1. The federal appeals court set an April 3 deadline for lawmakers to draw as many new Senate districts as would be needed to increase black voting strength in District 22. It also set an April 12 qualifying deadline for candidates who will run in the newly drawn districts.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117617

Reported Deaths: 3302
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds8011179
DeSoto721079
Harrison539884
Jackson469387
Rankin401686
Madison384394
Lee364082
Forrest309478
Jones296184
Washington260399
Lafayette253143
Lauderdale2499135
Lamar229138
Oktibbeha203755
Bolivar202877
Neshoba1861111
Lowndes181262
Panola170640
Leflore169188
Sunflower164049
Warren156056
Monroe153073
Pontotoc149020
Marshall147330
Lincoln142959
Pike140456
Copiah138736
Scott126229
Coahoma125537
Yazoo122734
Grenada122639
Simpson122349
Union119725
Tate119339
Itawamba115926
Leake115842
Pearl River115060
Holmes114960
Adams109344
Prentiss108320
Wayne102722
Alcorn102112
George101419
Covington98529
Marion95443
Tippah93123
Newton86827
Chickasaw86226
Hancock85928
Tallahatchie84626
Winston84621
Tishomingo82241
Attala80526
Clarke76353
Clay70522
Jasper69217
Walthall64127
Calhoun62713
Noxubee60117
Smith59816
Yalobusha55614
Montgomery55423
Claiborne53916
Tunica53617
Lawrence53414
Perry51223
Carroll49712
Stone48614
Greene47918
Humphreys44916
Amite42713
Quitman4216
Jefferson Davis41711
Webster37813
Benton3608
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32715
Sharkey28715
Jefferson27710
Franklin2483
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 160380

Reported Deaths: 2713
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23573377
Mobile16994316
Tuscaloosa10462140
Montgomery10352198
Madison942298
Shelby750465
Baldwin671269
Lee657165
Calhoun464761
Marshall442651
Etowah434151
Morgan422335
Houston419334
DeKalb349228
Elmore324653
St. Clair304042
Limestone293631
Walker283793
Talladega271437
Cullman255725
Lauderdale233842
Jackson219417
Autauga208231
Franklin206432
Colbert206032
Blount197225
Russell19603
Chilton190432
Dallas188127
Coffee180711
Dale178952
Covington175929
Escambia174931
Chambers136847
Clarke136617
Pike134514
Tallapoosa133987
Marion110331
Barbour10429
Marengo102622
Butler101241
Winston94013
Geneva9217
Lawrence86933
Pickens86918
Bibb85015
Randolph83516
Hale77730
Cherokee75614
Clay75312
Washington75112
Henry7236
Lowndes71628
Monroe65510
Bullock65017
Crenshaw60930
Perry5956
Fayette58913
Cleburne5739
Wilcox57012
Conecuh56513
Macon53920
Lamar5085
Sumter47421
Choctaw39312
Greene34616
Coosa2093
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