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Redistricting Fight Takes A Partisan Turn

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 08 Mar 2011 12:59pm | comments
A small copy of the 'Bryant Map' next to the joint committee maps.

The debate over Mississippi's new redistricting maps has become much more partisan. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that Republicans in a Senate committee have quickly changed the fate of the redistricting process....

The Senate elections committee, which is controlled by Republicans, tabled the redistricting plan passed by the Democratic-controlled house, effectively killing it.

Before the vote, Governor Haley Barbour called on Senate Republicans to stop the plan, saying it was unfair to Republicans.

"So, packing the Republican districts to over population, have 5% more than the average and the Democrat districts have less than the average. Means you end up with few Republican representatives and it is being done for purely partisan reasons," Barbour said.

Senator Chris McDaniel of Ellisville says that leads to a ‘hidden’ Republican district.

"The idea being, that on some of those areas that grew in population that happen to be Republican areas, those areas did not pick up additional seats. Instead an area that seemingly lost population either maintained levels or picked up," McDaniel said.

The Senate Elections committee also threw out a Senate redistricting map approved by the joint redistricting committee in favor of a map proposed by Lt. Governor Phil Bryant.

Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall says the key difference is that the new map no longer includes a majority minority district in Hattiesburg.

"All three Hattiesburg area districts currently represented by Republicans have grown. In those areas that have grown in those districts, they are the Republican areas of those districts not the Democratic areas of those districts. In fact the minority population in Hattiesburg has begun to shrink according to census figures," Fillingane said.

However, Senator Willie Simmons of Cleveland says the black population in Hattiesburg deserves representation.

"It makes sense for us to comply with the Justice Department and meet the constitutional requirement in section five and make that happen by creating a district down there. The population has been down there for some time," Simmons said.

The Senate plan now moves to the Rules committee before going to the Senate floor. The House plan goes back to the House.

Representative Ed Blackmon of Canton says the Lt. Governor used the "nuclear option" to derail the whole process for political gain.

"He sees this as an opportunity. He picked a fight is what he did. He went out and picked him a fight. And he believes that this is going to allow him to become governor of this state. And he may be right. I don't know how far we have come since Bilbo. But we are about to see," Blackmon said.

Representative Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto says the house will not be able agree on redistricting lines that satisfy Senate Republicans in time for the November election, which could force law makers to run again next year.

"The membership would like to work together to run only one time. But then you have some party activist on the other side, on the party different from me and I am a Democrat, who wouldn't mind see us running twice. So that is what is going on, at least I believe, in the Republican party," Moak said.

Governor Barbour and other Republicans say they do not want to run twice, but will if that is what it takes to get redistricting maps that they consider more fair. 

Images

A small copy of the 'Bryant Map' next to the joint committee maps.


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