Redistricting plans change little locally

Published 12:21 am Sunday, March 13, 2011

NATCHEZ — Only one legislative redistricting plan discussed in Jackson last week included any significant changes for Southwest Mississippi, and the Senate has already voted that plan down.

The House redistricting plan, killed in the Senate, redrew lines to the north and west of Adams County to eliminate Adams from District 85 and reduce the portions of Jefferson County in the district.

District 85, currently led by Rep. America “Chuck” Middleton, included more of Hinds County in the proposed House map.

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House leaders have said they will try to revive their map, but haven’t explained how.

Rep. Sam Mims, a Republican from McComb, who represents a portion of Adams County said he has been against the plan since the start and will continue to vote against it.

Mims did say he expects the House to attach an amendment with its own House plan to the Senate’s redistricting bill this week.

Mims said the House plan reduced Republican leadership in the House and reduced the size of his legislative district, District 97.

“The plan (did) not reflect values and views of most Mississippians,” Mims said.

“(The House) needs to increase conservative legislators. In the last statewide and federal election, most (people were) voting conservative. This plan makes it difficult for (the numbers) of conservative (legislators) to increase.”

District 97 currently covers portions of Adams, Amite, Franklin, Lawrence, Pike and Walthall counties, but the proposed redistricting plan eliminated Walthall and Lawrence counties.

Mims said he believes whatever plan comes from the House next will compact the districts of conservative legislators.

“At that point (the plan) will most likely pass because (conservatives) are in the minority.

The Senate redistricting plan, which is still alive, has little effect on Adams County and the surrounding area, Sen. Bob Dearing said.

The senate killed a plan last week drafted by Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, opting to approve a plan drawn by the chamber’s redistricting committee led by Chairman Sen. Terry Burton, a Republican.

The plan now needs House approval before becoming law.

“It’s basically the same plan that it has been (for Southwest Mississippi), which I think has been working very well,” said Dearing, a Democrat from Natchez.

The main difference between Bryant’s plan and the committee’s plan was in the Hattiesburg area.

Dearing said he was against Bryant’s plan.

“It’s the first time that I’ve seen a lieutenant governor put himself in the middle of redistricting, Dearing said.

The Bryant plan would have kept three Republican-friendly districts in the area.

While the Burton plan would create additional Republican-leaning district statewide, it would create one majority-black district in the Hattiesburg area.

Legislators are redrawing the 52 Senate districts and 122 House districts to account for population changes revealed by the 2010 Census.

Dearing said it makes more sense to adopt Burton’s plan because the Senate redistricting committee worked for months on the plan and gathered input from the public at more than 30 hearings around the state.

“I think that’s the plan that needs to be passed because of all the hard work the redistricting committee did,” Dearing said.

Mississippi’s redistricting maps must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department, which checks to ensure that the plans don’t dilute minorities’ voting strength. Lawmakers say the approval generally takes at least 60 days.

June 1 is candidates’ qualifying deadline for this year’s legislative elections.

To view maps of the Senate and House redistricting plans click here