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Federal Judge Panel to Hold Second Hearing on Redistricting

By Daniel Cherry | Published 09 May 2011 11:05am | comments

A three judge panel will hear arguments today in federal court over Mississippi's redistricting lawsuit. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how those involved will have a chance to plead their case.

The three federal judges say they're inclined to order the temporary use of state House and Senate maps which were discussed during the legislative session. The panel will hear arguments from all sides about why they should or should not go through with what they're considering. Hollis Watkins is the plaintiff on the NAACP's redistricting lawsuit.

"The minority black voting strength has been diluted. For too long there has been retrogression. You gain a little something and then it's taken back. So we want to make sure those kinds of actions are obsolete."

Those like Watkins will have what is likely to be their last chance to be heard by the court. Voting district boundaries can have a huge influence on election outcomes. Watkins says he's there to make sure throughout the political jockeying districts are drawn in a fair manner.

"I've realized that redistricting is a very powerful tool that for too long has been left in the hands of a few rather than having the majority of the population participating in the process."

Some like the state Republican Party are not happy the court is leaning toward the House and Senate versions. Attorney for the Mississippi GOP Steve Seale says the Republican Party wants the court to either pass their own plan or use another solution.

"We've asked the court to appoint experts and draw its own plans. It can easily be done. This is not 20 years ago. We have updated technology and software systems that can apply the principals of law and the other principals that are required fairly easily...perhaps within three days."

The lines have to be drawn soon. June 1st is the qualifying deadline for legislative candidates. Daniel Cherry...MPB News.

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