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Additional Information on Redistricting

November 20, 2010
tags: redistricting, state legislature
by Brett

Yesterday I posted a couple maps that are available on the website of the reapportionment committee. Because Mississippi, along with a couple other states, has legislative elections next fall they have to move a little faster than most when it comes to reapportionment. The state will likely receive official census numbers around February 1, and then really get going with trying to draw up 174 new districts in a state that has seen a number of population changes over the past 10 years.

But for now, all we have are estimates. The maps that I posted are based on 2009 census estimates for each county. Therefore while they may be accurate please do not take them as the gospel. Besides the fact that they are simply estimates, there is one other important fact that I have since learned.

Take Senate Districts 1 and 19, for example. They are both in the fast growing Desoto county. Estimates show that Desoto grew by 42.05 percent over the past nine years. Therefore, both Doug Davis (in SD1) and Merle Flowers (in SD19) show a growth of 42.05 in their districts without paying any respect to the specific precincts. Chances are growth didn’t occur equally so the numbers won’t be quite as advertised right now. Further, when members have multiple counties in their district the numbers are essentially pro-rated based on what percentage of the county they represent and the county growth estimates.

** I spoke with a state Senator about the redistricting process and his thoughts were that the legislature would finish up before the elections and prevent a repeat of 1991 when members had to stand for election in back-to-back years. A couple reasons for this: First, he said with the anti-incumbent mood legislators don’t want to be seen as failing to do their job. He predicted a failure would be taken out equally on Republicans and Democrats. Second, the issue of race is not there like it was 20 years ago. The number of majority-black districts in the House (39) and Senate (12) will likely remain the same.

*** That said, race is certainly still an issue. For better or worse, partisanship has replaced race as the issue however partisanship is generally based on race. It is actually expected for Republicans or Democrats to draw lines that favor their party in today’s political world. In Mississippi, that means adding or subtracting black voters from the districts in most cases. There is nothing illegal with drawing gerrymandered districts that make little sense in a place like Wisconsin (for example) where white liberals in Madison or white union workers are minimized; it’s a different story when it relates to race even if you are simply doing it for the same partisan reasons.

**** I still believe it will be difficult to answer this question: How do you redraw lines to not dilute the black vote when the predominantly black Delta has seen the biggest population loss and the predominately white suburbs have seen enormous growth? (At the same time, the percentage of the black population in the state has actually slightly increased overall). I take it to mean that the minority percentage in places like Rankin or Desoto has grown, but it is still tough to draw majority-minority districts in those counties (and others like it).

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