/Gerrymandering lawsuit over Senate District 22 headed back to court as governor challenges order to redraw map

Gerrymandering lawsuit over Senate District 22 headed back to court as governor challenges order to redraw map

After Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of state Delbert Hosemann appealed a decision by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves of Southern District of Mississippi. This was affirmed by a panel of three judges of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that District 22 should be redrawn. Bryant and Hosemann have asked the entire 5th Circuit for a hearing in the case. Another three-judge panel will hear oral arguments. It is unclear if the full court would or could take the case prior to the scheduled oral arguments. Bryant and Hosemann argue that the District 22 lawsuit was too late. It was filed in 2018. They argue that the suit could have been filed in 2015, when all facts were known to the plaintiffs. This would have allowed for orderly review and deliberation. The Legislature approved the current legislative redistricting plan in 2012. It was only used for the 2015 election. The second election will be held later in the year. After that, the federal law will require the Legislature to redistrict again based on 2020 U.S Census data, prior to the 2023 elections. In Senate District 22, the incumbent Senator Eugene “Buck” Clarke (R-Hollandale) defeated Democrat Joseph Thomas from Yazoo Country 54 percent to 46 percent in 2015. The 2012 legislative session was the year that the current district configuration, which includes parts of six counties. The 2012 legislative session saw the election of a new Lieutenant Governor. Tate Reeves faced a problem with his redistricting team when trying to protect Buck Clarke, his Appropriations chair. The Senate needed to redistrict Clarke’s Delta centrerist District 22, in order to conform to the 2010 Census population shifts. Problem was, the district was surrounded by predominantly African Americans, who usually vote Democratic. To protect Clarke’s rights, the Senate decided to move the already large district south into Madison County, which is fast growing and affluent. It created a district stretching more than 100 miles and running from Bolivar County, in the heart of Delta, to Madison, a heavily Republican Jackson suburb. Clarke was reelected in the district in 2015. He is running for treasurer in New York State. The federal court ordered that the Legislature add African American voters to Sunflower County to District 22, and remove primarily white voting precincts from Bolivar County from District 12. According to those who filed the lawsuit, the result was that African Americans could have a chance to keep a black senator from District 13 and to add one to District 22. Bryant and Hosemann appealed, and now the 10 candidates (6 Democrats, 2 Republicans, and 2 Independents) who qualified to run in District 22 this year are waiting for confirmation on whether they will campaign in the district. The district was drawn prior to or after the 2019 legislative session. Six Democrats and one Republican are facing the same problems as the seven candidates in District 13. The August party primaries will be followed by the November general election. The 52-member Senate currently has 15 African American majority constituencies, which includes District 22. Based on 2010 Census data, the current district has a black population that is just over 50%. The Mississippi Center for Justice filed the lawsuit in support of several residents of District 22. Thomas is running for the seat again. They claim that due to the district’s geographical spread and the high concentration of Madison County’s wealthy white voters, who historically voted at a higher rate, it would be difficult for an African American candidate to win the district. 13 of the remaining black majority Senate districts are represented by African Americans, with one being represented by a White Democrat. There are 42 black majority congressional districts in the House of 122 members. 38 are represented by African Americans (37 Democrats, one independent, and four are represented with white Democrats). Thomas, Ruffin Smith and Vince “Bigg” V. Roberts are qualified candidates to run for District 22. Hayes Dent, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Selbst are the Republicans. Terrance Edison Jr. is the Independent. The Democrats who qualified in District 13 are: Tony G. Anderson (Tim), Dwayne Self, Hayes Dent, Hayes Dent, Charles Modley Jr., Charles Modley Jr., Sarita M. Simmons, John Marshall Alexander, and Mark Buckner Jr. Alexander originally filed this year as an Independent, but he changed to Democratic when the Legislature switched precincts between 22, and 13. Republican B.C. Republican B.C. Hammond is also running for the District 13 election._x000D