NAACP lawsuit consolidated at Attorney General’s request

Published 10:43 am Friday, March 25, 2011

NATCHEZ — The Attorney General has called for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the local branch of the NAACP against Adams County that could stall county elections until district lines are redrawn to reflect the 2010 census.

The suit was filed Feb. 28, a day before the election-qualifying deadline.

The NAACP also filed a similar suit in Amite, Claiborne, Copiah, DeSoto, Panola, Pike, Simpson, Tallahatchie, Tunica, Warren, Webster and Winston counties.

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District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. consolidated the cases Wednesday, at the request of Attorney General Jim Hood.

A federal docket showed, on Thursday, that a hearing on the case is scheduled for April 5 in Gulfport.

The Attorney General’s Office filed motions March 4 to intervene in the case against Adams County and filed a response to the plaintiff’s allegations.

The NAACP case, which was filed on behalf of District 5 resident Jacqueline Marsaw, claims the supervisor districts are “unconstitutionally malapportioned” according to the 2010 census, a legal memo by the plaintiff says.

The plaintiff argues the maximum deviation between districts is 39.46 percent.

Board attorney Bobby Cox said the data the suit uses neglects to subtract the population of the Adams County Correctional Facility from its data, which would alter the data and will not be included in the redistricting process.

The lawsuit says District 2 and District 5 are over-populated and under represented.

An Attorney General’s opinion suggests the claim takes advantage on an opportunity to file suit since the data arrived during an election year.

The memo said every fifth county election cycle for offices with four-year term occurs in the same year that census data is released.

“The unavoidable combination of those two cycles every 20 years does not yield an automatic ‘one person, one vote’ complaint for plaintiffs Adams County Branch of NAACP (‘NAACP’) and Jacqueline Marsaw (‘Adams’) (collectively ‘plaintiffs’), or anyone else,” the memo says.

All prior federal cases support that elections should not be halted when census data arrives in the middle of the election cycle, the Attorney General’s memo said

“The plaintiffs’ requests for declaratory and injunctive relief should be denied, and their claims should be dismissed with prejudice,” an Attorney General memo says.

The plaintiff argued Marsaw did not want the black voting strength in Adams County diluted.

Cox said since Marsaw was a District 3 resident, however, her district was not in jeopardy of being diluted.

The plaintiff amended the case Monday to include Brenda Proby, a District 5 resident.

A memo by the plaintiff’s lawyer says the NAACP and Marsaw do not want to take over the election, but to ask the court to find a constitutional violation and afford the county “ample opportunity to remedy the violation.”

Bryan Callaway, who Cox hired to assist in the case, filed an answer March 17 of behalf of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, Board of Elections Commissioners and Circuit Clerk Eddie Walker, who were the defendants of the case.

The county’s answer also suggests dismissal.

“The complaint should be dismissed pursuant to the ripeness, mootness and/or political question doctrines,” the document said.