/Lawsuit alleges gerrymandered state district dilutes black vote

Lawsuit alleges gerrymandered state district dilutes black vote

Three African American men from the Delta filed a federal suit against the state accusing it of gerrymandering a district in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Civil Rights lawyers argue that Senate District 22’s boundaries, which are primarily located in the Mississippi Delta area, deliberately dilute African-American voter strength. They have asked U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves for an order directing state officials to redraw their district in time for 2019 statewide elections. According to Rob McDuff, a Jackson civil rights lawyer who is working with Mississippi Center for Justice in the lawsuit, “There will be a lot focus on redistricting after the 2020 census,” he said. “But, because there is an issue with District 22 which needs to be fixed before the census and prior the 2019 election,” McDuff said. Phil Bryant and Delbert Hosemann, Secretary of State, are the defendants. Attorney General Jim Hood is also indicted. Since 2004, Buck Clarke (R-Hollandale) has held Senate District 22. It covers six counties in central Mississippi and the Delta. It is irregularly shaped with a large center and two narrow arms. One extends north past Cleveland, while the other reaches into Madison County and ends at Barnett Reservoir. As the crow flies between them, the distance is 102 miles. Mississippi has 52 senator districts. It is approximately 320 miles from top to bottom. District 22 is home to the plaintiffs, Vernon Ayers from Washington County and Joseph Thomas of Yazoo County. Melvin Lawson of Bolivar County is also a resident. These three counties are located in the Delta, and are primarily African American. Monday’s lawsuit alleges that Madison County’s rich and predominantly white neighborhoods were added to the district to reduce the district’s black population to 50.8 per cent. This, along with lower African American turnout and white bloc voting, have diluted the voting power of one of the most African American areas of the state. “Gerrymandering is one of the most serious threats to democracy in today’s world. Kristen Clarke, Executive Director and President of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law stated that Mississippi’s current districting plan effectively denies African American voters equal participation in the political process. McDuff and the Mississippi Center for Justice were joined by McDuff and the Lawyer’s Committee. McDuff was represented by Waters Kraus, a Dallas-based law firm, and Ellis Turnage, a Cleveland attorney._x000D