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Federal Court Hears Arguments on Redistricting Battle

By Daniel Cherry | Published 10 May 2011 10:44am | comments

Those involved with redistricting in Mississippi are expecting a ruling soon from the federal court panel. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports on the issues brought before the court.

The three judge panel listened to another round of testimony from parties involved in redistricting. The qualifying deadline for legislative offices fast approaching, and all sides have their own plans for which voting maps should be used. Carrol Rhodes, attorney for the NAACP says they want new districts implemented for the upcoming election.

"What the plaintiff has asked for is that the elections not be held under the current districts because they're grossly malapportioned and that the plans passed by the House and the Senate be used as an interim plan."

The court had said they were inclined to adopt maps drawn by the House and Senate in their respective chambers. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says even if new maps were applied today, counties wouldn't have time to implement them.

"On average they believe it would take at least two months for the counties to get their work together, and many of the counties are interdispersed and interlinked with adjoining counties. So all 82 counties have to work for the system to work. If one or two or five counties can't redistrict then adjoining counties can't redistrict and the whole system doesn't work."

Hosemann wants legislative candidates to run under the current map, but population shifts since the old census would put some districts in violation of the one person one vote portion of the Voting Rights Act. Matt Steffy is a Constitutional Law professor at Mississippi College Law School. He says the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution means the court can't ignore a federal law to satisfy state politics.

"A federal court is more likely to adhere to and give fidelity and priority to the constitutional standard of one person one vote, but if the federal court employed the existing district lines it would be having an election going forward that it knows does not meet the constitutional standard."

The court said they intend to have as little intrusion into state politics as possible. Daniel Cherry...MPB News.

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