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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: 64400

Reported Deaths: 1825
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5416112
DeSoto347227
Madison236360
Harrison228735
Rankin220231
Jackson215641
Jones182857
Forrest170155
Washington154835
Lauderdale137990
Lee129732
Neshoba126490
Lamar117713
Oktibbeha107737
Lowndes102333
Bolivar101032
Warren99531
Scott97820
Panola96012
Sunflower94223
Copiah92928
Lafayette90714
Leflore88261
Pike86133
Holmes85948
Grenada81921
Yazoo80312
Lincoln78741
Pontotoc7808
Leake77625
Simpson76730
Wayne74921
Monroe73151
Coahoma68410
Tate68327
Marion63419
Marshall6169
Covington60313
Adams59625
Winston59315
Union55215
George5454
Newton53011
Pearl River51537
Tallahatchie51210
Attala51024
Walthall48219
Chickasaw43819
Noxubee43811
Claiborne39913
Calhoun3929
Smith38913
Clay38014
Jasper3799
Alcorn3775
Prentiss3699
Hancock34914
Tishomingo3445
Itawamba32310
Clarke32225
Tippah32013
Tunica3076
Yalobusha30410
Lawrence3027
Montgomery3023
Humphreys28111
Carroll24811
Quitman2381
Greene23011
Kemper22715
Jefferson Davis2256
Perry2207
Amite2176
Webster21112
Jefferson1936
Wilkinson19313
Sharkey1913
Stone1603
Choctaw1294
Benton1280
Franklin1152
Issaquena241
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 91776

Reported Deaths: 1639
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12186230
Mobile9269204
Montgomery6350148
Madison512227
Tuscaloosa400269
Baldwin332223
Shelby311932
Marshall300134
Unassigned287856
Lee255442
Morgan227015
Etowah196728
DeKalb172113
Elmore163337
Calhoun162713
Walker147964
Houston133412
Dallas129823
Russell12672
St. Clair125214
Limestone122713
Franklin121520
Cullman117112
Colbert112213
Lauderdale111113
Autauga103021
Escambia98115
Talladega94613
Jackson8904
Chambers83238
Tallapoosa82778
Dale79823
Butler75435
Blount7453
Chilton7386
Coffee7255
Covington71620
Pike6727
Barbour5645
Lowndes56124
Marion54724
Marengo52914
Clarke4919
Hale45926
Bullock44411
Winston43511
Perry4324
Wilcox41110
Monroe3964
Randolph39210
Bibb3844
Pickens3769
Conecuh37310
Sumter36018
Lawrence3251
Macon31613
Washington31512
Crenshaw3073
Choctaw27612
Cherokee2497
Greene24711
Henry2473
Geneva2430
Clay2255
Lamar2052
Fayette1785
Cleburne1211
Coosa952
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