/NAACP questions constitutionality of redistricting plan

NAACP questions constitutionality of redistricting plan

Before deciding, the judicial panel will hear more arguments. Carroll Rhodes, an experienced Hazlehurst lawyer and veteran of numerous redistricting litigation disputes, believes that the plan approved in the Legislature, which includes a 2nd District with a Black majority that runs almost the entire length of the state, along the Mississippi River, is not constitutional. The state’s only Black U.S. House member, Bennie Thompson, will not be seeking re-election because of the district’s sprawl. Wednesday’s argument was made by Rhodes in front of a federal three-judge panel. This panel has been overseeing the state’s congressional redistricting since 2000, when it couldn’t agree on a plan. Ten years later, the Legislature could not agree to a plan to redraw districts in accordance with the 2010 U.S. Census. The Legislature passed a plan this year, and Wednesday’s status conference was held in Jackson. This panel of judges seemed ready to terminate its oversight of Mississippi’s congressional redrawing. Michael Wallace, an attorney from Jackson representing the Republican Party, said that Rhodes was correct and that the three-judge panel should continue to have jurisdiction for long enough to hear Rhodes’ complaints. Although the panel could be removed from the proceedings, Rhodes would still be able to file a new suit. This would require the creation of a new panel of three judges, who will not have the same background as the current judges. Wallace stated that it would be prudent to continue what you have started, but he reiterated his belief in the constitutionality of the Republican majority Legislature’s plan. Rhodes agreed with Wallace that the panel should retain jurisdiction. He suggested that the panel hold a hearing, and allow for depositions and other fact finding. He stated that there were questions as to whether the Legislature’s intent with its plan was to stop African Americans from gaining future congressional seats. Rhodes claimed that the Legislature did not adhere to one of the principal principles set forth by the panel, which was to ensure compactness in the districts. While hearing the arguments of NAACP, Rhodes suggested that judges could “tweak” the 2011 plan to conform to the Census’ population shifts. Rhodes said that the NAACP had presented a plan to make those changes by adding all of Hinds County as well as a small part of southern Madison County (a Jackson suburb) to the majority Black 2nd District. Instead, the Legislature approved the plan adding four counties to the 2nd district in southwest Mississippi. This means that the district covers almost the entire length of the state at the western border. Rhodes stated that the question is whether a Black candidate could raise enough money to run in a district that spans the entire state. According to the 2020 Census, the 2nd District was the only congressional district in the state to see a decline in population. It lost 65,000 people. E. Grady Jolly from the Appeals Court, a member on the three-judge panel seemed skeptical about the claim that an African American candidate could not win in a district with a Black population greater than 60%, as the 2nd District in the Legislature’s plan. Rhodes suggested that Black voters might not be as likely to vote in southwest Mississippi’s four new counties. Wallace stated to the panel that the panel should permit the legislative plan to take effect while Rhodes’ arguments are heard. The panel will be presented with additional written arguments by both sides in February. Since March 1 is the qualifying deadline for candidates for Congress, judges will need to quickly make a decision. READ MORE: First time since the early 1990s that congressional districts have been redrawn by lawmakers