Federal Court Orders Mississippi to Add New Black-Majority Districts

A federal court ruled on July 2 that Mississippi must redraw its state legislative districting map to include more black-majority districts in both Senate and House races.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi issued an order that strikes down the state’s 2022 redistricting maps for electing members of the state legislature on the premise that they diluted black voting strength in violation of federal law.

The judges ordered the districts redrawn to include two additional black-majority districts in the Mississippi state Senate and one additional black-majority district in the state House.

“We will provide the Mississippi Legislature an opportunity to enact revised maps,” wrote the judges.

The new black-majority Senate districts are to be drawn in and around DeSoto County and the city of Hattiesburg, while the House district is to be in Chickasaw and Monroe counties.

Special elections will be held after the three districts are redrawn, per the ruling. While the judges said their intention is to give a “reasonable opportunity” for the state legislature to create and adopt its own plan for the special elections, they expressed a desire to have new legislators elected before the 2025 legislative session convenes.

The court asked the parties to the case to be prepared to present their own respective maps five days after the deadline for the Mississippi Legislature to adopts its own plan in case the Legislature fails to act.

The judges ordered several video conferences to be held in mid-July to receive arguments from counsel on the issue of timing of the special election before “the most appropriate date” is determined.

The state can appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Epoch Times has reached out for comment to the office of the Mississippi Secretary of State, one of the defendants in the case.

The plaintiffs in the case—the Mississippi State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and several individual voters—were represented in their initial December 2022 lawsuit by a coalition of civil rights advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi.

The lawsuit alleged that the 2022 maps denied black residents in parts of Mississippi an equal opportunity to participate in the political process in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which prohibits discrimination based on race.

Racial vote-dilution claims are typically brought on the premise that electoral map drawers “packed” a given state’s minority voters into a smaller number of districts and “cracked” them among other districts in order to weaken the overall voting power of the block.

The plaintiffs’ complaint also alleged that the state of Mississippi violated the U.S. Constitution by racially gerrymandering district lines.

The lawsuit argued that the Mississippi Legislature rushed the 2022 maps through the legislative process at the very end of the legislative session with no opportunity for public hearings to weigh in on the proposed maps. It claimed that the 2022 maps were an attempt to deny Mississippi’s black voters political power.

While the judges found that the plaintiffs successfully argued that the 2022 redistricting maps diluted black voting power, they also noted that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the maps amount to “unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.”

Charles V. Taylor, Jr., executive director of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP said in a statement that the organization is “pleased with the decision of finding some of the districts discriminatory to black voters, although we wish the court had gone further.”


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