NAACP Sues State on Voting Map | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

NAACP Sues State on Voting Map

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The Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP is again locking horns with the state of Mississippi over redistricting maps.

The NAACP is asking a federal court to throw out the results of the 2011 elections in which Republicans gained control of both houses of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.

"The court should order special elections. However, those elections should not be held under the 2012 plans. Those plans result in discrimination against African-American voters," the lawsuit states. "The 2012 plans contain fewer black majority districts and black voting age majority districts than the plans offered by plaintiffs as interim plans in 2011. The 2011 plans are evidence that the 2012 plans result in discrimination."

In 2011, the NAACP filed a federal suit to prevent last year's November election from taking place.

The NAACP's national president, Benjamin Jealous, traveled to Jackson to urge lawmakers at the time "to formulate an equitable redistricting plan that is inclusive of all Mississippians." However, the courts ruled that the Legislature could put off redistricting until the 2012 session.

Under the House plan, approved late in the session, Jackson Democratic Rep. Cecil Brown's district was moved into the territory now served by Rep. Bill Denny, R-Jackson. Denny also, coincidentally, was in charge of drawing up the maps for the House.

In addition, Robert Huddleston, D-Sumner, would have to square off against Tommy Taylor, R-Boyle; Kevin Horan, D-Grenada, would face Linda Whittington, D-Schlater; Democrats Bennett Malone of Carthage and Jason White of West would go toe-to-toe as would Blaine Eaton, D-Taylorsville, and Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose.

The Legislature redrew the 122 House districts and 52 Senate districts this past spring to reflect population shifts after the 2010 Census.

Lawmakers elected in 2011 under the previous boundaries hold those seats until 2015, but in its lawsuit the NAACP contended and some state officials agreed that the districts used in 2011 did not reflect shifts shown in the 2010 Census.

"Consequently, both plans result in discrimination against African-American voters," according to the lawsuit filed Saturday.

Because of Mississippi's history of racial discrimination, the Voting Rights Act requires the state to get federal approval for any election law changes.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement Monday that the Senate plan should pass any federal court review.

"The Senate redistricting plan passed by an overwhelming margin, increased the number of majority-minority districts and was swiftly approved by President Obama's Department of Justice last month. Once again, this unusual lawsuit shows the Mississippi NAACP is out of touch, and I am confident the Senate plan will be approved by the federal court," Reeves told the Associated Press.

Mississippi's population is 37 percent black, and its voting-age population is 35 percent black. The Republican-controlled Senate approved its map on a 46-5 vote May 2, with one Democrat absent. The map has 15 majority-black Senate districts, or 29 percent.

In its new lawsuit, the NAACP argues that blacks "suffered irreparable harm in 2011 by being forced to vote in elections where their votes were underrepresented. Plaintiffs not only suffered a debasement of their vote in the 2011 elections, but they continue to suffer a debasement by being represented by persons elected in unconstitutional districts."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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