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Mississippi Lawmakers Could Get First Look At New Voting Districts

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Apr 2012 04:10pm | comments

With just three weeks remaining in the 2012 legislative session, Mississippi lawmakers have yet to take up one of the most controversial topics...redrawing the state's voting districts. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that legislators could get their first look at the recommended maps this week.

Mississippi law makers are under increased pressure to re-draw the state's voting districts after failing to craft new lines during the last legislative session.

House Redistricting Chairman Bill Denny of Jackson says lots of behind the scenes work is currently going into drawing the 122 house districts.

"I can't tell you at this time, I just don't know we are still working on them. We will get them out just as soon as they are complete but right now we are working on them. At the same time I bring them out, that first time, it will be public information. But exactly when that is, I just cannot tell you," Denny said.

By this point in the redistricting process last year, there had been numerous meetings, hearings and even votes from legislators.

So far, only a handful of people outside the chairmen of the redistricting committees have seen fully redrawn maps.

Senate Redistricting chairman Merle Flowers of Southaven says he won't make the maps public until they are a completely finished product that he believes the Justice Department will also approve.

"Our map will meet section 5 of the voting rights act. It will meet section 2 requirements of the voting rights act. We have a high degree of confidence that the redistricting maps will be fair and balanced and will reflect the changes and population shifts that our state had in the last ten years," Flowers said.

Republicans control both chambers of the legislature for the first time in modern history potentially giving them strong control over the process.

House Minority leader Bobby Moak of Bouge Chitto says the condensed time frame could make it hard to fully vet the maps.

"I think probably what it does is it puts you more in line for a federal court action. If you are not totally open on these districts. Not full time for review and comment. Then I think you have a problem," Moak said.

Even if the legislature approves new maps before the end of the session, there is still the potential that the courts could call for a repeat of last November's legislative elections...forcing all 122 representatives and 52 senators to run again in their new districts.

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