Natchez State Rep. Johnson says courts ultimately will decide redistricting map

Published 3:32 pm Friday, January 7, 2022

NATCHEZ — Just like 10 years ago, State Rep. Robert Johnson III predicts the courts will have the final say in how the state’s redistricting map will look.

As one of its first orders of business, the Mississippi House voted to approve a map that creates a sprawling second district, one that runs the length of the state on its west side.

“I offered an amendment to take the four Southwest Mississippi counties — Adams, Wilkinson, Franklin and Amite — out of the second district. It does no good to have a district that includes half the counties in the state and nearly half the land mass,” Johnson said.

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Johnson, a Democrat, represents Mississippi’s 94th district in the state House of Representatives, which includes Adams County.

The area for the second district recommended by the Joint Redistricting Committee does not serve the residents that the district would make up.

The issue is a partisan one, led by the Republican majority in the State House. The Joint Redistricting Committee is composed of members who were appointed by Republican Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. The State Senate is expected to take up the redistricting issue next week.

“No matter how great a representative you are, you can’t effectively represent a district of that size. It’s just too big. No one could provide effective leadership to that size district,” Johnson said.

The Mississippi NAACP offered a redistricting map that accomplishes creating a majority black district, while keeping districts more compact by drawing a small portion of the population from Hinds and Madison counties. That’s the map Johnson offered in his amendment.

“All four of those counties — Adams, Wilkinson, Franklin and Amite — lost population, a total of 67,000 people together (over the last 10 years). It make more sense to add those in Hinds and southwest Madison. One of the criteria for redistricting is compactness of the district. The Joint Committee’s recommendation isn’t that.

“It’s in the best interest of all to leave us where we are,” Johnson said. “As your representative, I’m trying to do what’s best for our area. We can’t have a Congressional district like they have proposed. Just like 10 years ago, I anticipate the court will have the final say on our redistricting.”