Redistricing process isn’t exactly fair

Published 12:26 am Sunday, March 13, 2011

In Jackson, the politicians are determining whether your vote counts or doesn’t. You vote doesn’t count if you are put in a “safe” district for one party or the other. It only counts if you are in a competitive district.

Of course, it is nice to have a representative who shares your view representing you, but if it is the shape of the district which elected him or her, then it is not really your vote that made the difference.

It is also nice to have a representative from your home area who is easily accessible in person and understands your local needs and problems. The more representatives in your area, the more likelihood you have of finding someone who can help you.

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All of the above are at play in Jackson right now — for the Mississippi state Senate and House of Representatives, and for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mississippi is one of those southern states which are also covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which has been interpreted to mean that there can be no “retrogression” in minority voting strength where majority minority districts can be created.

One can debate whether this section helps to overcome racial bloc voting, or whether it segregates minorities into polarized racial and political districts which may actually reduce their political clout by “packing” them into safe districts thereby reducing their total statewide influence.

These issues are complex! They are “the political thicket.” Furthermore, politicians are sometimes more jealous of their districts than they are of their spouses!

As a result of the above considerations, county boundaries and geographical communities of interest play a much smaller role in redistricting than they used to do. Districts wander the map in search of enough people to satisfy the population requirement while still allowing incumbents who draw these maps to maintain their political power.

Each district is related to the other districts. Only in the corners of the state can boundaries be determined by the permanent shape of our state boundaries rather than the shape of neighboring districts. Consequently, our area can have greater control over the shape of its districts than many other areas of the state.

Adams, Wilkinson, Jefferson and Franklin together could be combined into one single Senate district without dividing any of them. Their total population is very close to an ideal-sized district.

A House district could be formed by combining Wilkinson and Amite counties into one district. Most of Adams County could constitute another. The remainder of Adams County could be combined with Franklin and Jefferson counties to form a third district. That portion of Adams County would constitute 1/3 of such a district with Franklin and Jefferson counties each constituting the other thirds.

Such districts would keep southwest Mississippi “in one piece” as suggested by this newspaper’s editorial on Tuesday, but it would mean that there would be fewer representatives in Jackson who would represent some part of Adams County, and they might be of only one political party.

That might reduce our political clout further than the present gerrymandered districts.

They are most likely to be modified only slightly because maintaining the status quo is in the interest of most present incumbents who will be voting on the maps.

David Dreyer is a Natchez resident.