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Nunnelee: Congressmen Shouldn’t Draw Their Districts

November 28, 2011

As it became apparent earlier this year that Congressional map drawing was going nowhere in the legislature, one of the main things that just rubbed me (and I imagine many other people who read it) the wrong way was comments by Terry Burton and Tommy Reynolds on how they are working with the four incumbents to agree on the new map.

And as the courts have stepped in to handle drawing the new maps, one of those Congressmen, Alan Nunnelee, was quoted as saying: “I just don’t think it’s appropriate for any member of Congress to draw their own district to suit themselves.” He said this when asked about the role he plans to take in pushing a certain map.

At the same time, Bennie Thompson has been lobbying publicly and privately to keep southwest Mississippi out of his district saying it would stretch his district out unnecessarily and “defeat the purpose of compactness.” Last Monday, state Rep. Kelvin Buck (D-Holly Springs) and a “group of black voters” filed a lawsuit proposing a map likely in coordination with Thompson. Nunnelee, along with Steven Palazzo and Gregg Harper, oppose this plan.

This map sent all of Panola county to MS-02 along with parts of Grenada, Leake, Madison, and Hinds. Leake, Madison, and Hinds are already split so I have no idea what Buck’s plan may have looked like.

The big controversy has been potentially moving Northeast Jackson into Thompson’s district from MS-03. Obviously you can’t make all residents happy with their potential Congressman, but you are looking at some of the most influential Republicans in the state in these precincts who will be a little angrier, and have more say, than your average voter. With that, I certainly haven’t seen Buck’s map but I did come up with a good sketch based on the counties mentioned in the AP article.

We know they want to shift all of Panola to MS-02 and that seems like something everyone has agreed on. That county is split about 50/50 and Obama won it with 52 percent in 2008. In the map I drew, the other split counties were more of a guess, but here is what else I got in a map using those counties.

In Grenada, you have a couple strong Democratic precincts in the city (Box 3 and Box 4), but you need to take in very strong Republican boxes from unincorporated communities like Holcomb, Geeslin, and Hardy. This would split the city of Grenada but I imagine Republicans in the city would be OK with it if it saves them from Thompson. In Leake, I pulled in Lena and Walnut Grove precincts, both majority black/ strong Democratic boxes. In Madison, the only precinct I moved to MS-02 was Ratliff Ferry, again majority black and Democratic. I kept the south Madison precincts, save for Tougaloo and its three votes for John McCain ,which is already in the Second, in the Third.

Now for Hinds and Northeast Jackson in particular. A number of the boxes I moved voted for Obama, and some were majority black, so it wasn’t exactly a huge transition for them. This includes the precinct with more white liberals than probably any in the state, Voting District 17, which is 90 percent white, but gave Obama 48 percent of the vote. Others moved to MS-02: Voting District 8, 9, 36, 37, 44, 45, 46, 78, and 79. Included are two big Republican precincts- 45 and 46. Staying with MS-03 are: Voting Districts 14, 32, 33, 34, and 35. Voting District 15 (91 percent white, 71 percent McCain) moves from the Second to the Third.

Here is a close up of Northeast Jackson under this map.

Again, I have no insight on what Buck and company proposed, but if you are going to move something from Northeast Jackson, this is what I’d be looking at.

As for a “Republican plan,” I haven’t seen one but I did draw up a map which would move Adams and Wilkinson to MS-02. I also moved Panola which looks like its headed to the Second regardless. It can be done pretty cleanly moving those three counties in their entirety. I kept everything the same including Hinds county but had to remove two boxes from Leake county. They were both Republican precincts.

Here are the numbers on the two maps, which hopefully will show you little is on the line in the lawsuit: In a map modeled after the Democratic lawsuit, MS-02 would have a BVAP of 61.3 percent and give Obama 65 percent of the vote. The plan that shifts Southwest Mississippi to MS-02 has a BVAP of 61.8 percent with 65.5 percent of the vote going to Obama. So basically no differences of any significance in terms of statistics and there is no talk of diluting the black vote in the Second regardless of who wins.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Charlie Stogner permalink
    November 28, 2011 8:00 am

    If only they’ll put the areas east of I-55 back in 03 and out of 02.

  2. rankinlawyer permalink
    November 28, 2011 9:17 am

    Have to appreciate Nunnelee’s integrity.

  3. Bill Billingsley permalink
    November 28, 2011 10:33 am

    We will never have Congressional districts that make sense as long as we’re required to make race such a compelling factor. It’s an insult to voters of any race for the federal government to demand the districts to be so heavily weighted one way or the other. The Second could easily be drawn using normal geopolitical boundaries and still remain majority black, but it might not be 70%. The Voting Rights Act and all the legislation that has been passed to make up for the past has only driven the races further apart, and forcing Mississippians to make race the most important factor in redistricting only exacerbates the problem.

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