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Redistricting Hits A Wall

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 17 Mar 2011 06:02pm | comments
Lt. Governor Bryant and Senate President Pro Temp. Billy Hewes talk during the debate.

The redistricting battle between the Mississippi House and Senate seems to be at a stalemate. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that Senators cast a climatic vote on the direction of redistricting in Mississippi Thursday morning.

The house has approved both their map and the Senate map. Mississippi Senators had to choose to accept both or call for a conference with the House.

During debate, Senator Alice Harden of Jackson called for Senators to approve the plans and move on.

"We need to make sure that we pass a plan that we can submit to the justice department, get it approved, run and come back and work for the good of all of the people of this great state of Mississippi," Harden said.

Lawmakers are facing a June first deadline to get Justice Department approved maps in place for this fall's elections...or else federal courts could draw the lines, or law makers could have to run for election in back-to-back years.

Senator Chris McDaniel of Ellisville urged law makers to slow down and take a more careful look at the new lines.

"1991 is a great example of that. The Justice Department received our submission and in less than 10 days they rejected it. Ignore this concept of 60 days. Recognize the Justice Department can act much more quickly. It has, there is precedent and it will this time. Don't let fear be your guide, we have a job to do," McDaniel said.

Senators voted 29-to-18 to enter into conference with the House...however, the house leadership has already declared that they will not supply conferees, creating a stalemate between the chambers.

Marty Wiseman, the director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, says the House appears to have the political advantage.

"The House lays claim to the high ground by saying "we passed yours and we passed ours. Now all you have to do is pass ours and we'll be through," Wiseman said.

Wiseman says it is hard to predict what will happen if the redistricting maps wind up in federal court, but Thursday vote certainly increases the odds that law makers will have to run twice. 

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Lt. Governor Bryant and Senate President Pro Temp. Billy Hewes talk during the debate.


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