BOBBY HARRISON: The court's ruling sets up interesting election dynamics

JACKSON – Who wins and who loses, based on Monday’s ruling by a three-judge federal panel that legislative elections will be held this year in the current, malapportioned districts, remains to be seen.
After all, partisan winning and losing is what this protracted redistricting fight during the 2011 session and costly legal battle before the federal court is all about.
The winning and losing will be determined by whether Republicans or Democrats control the House and elect the next speaker and whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate.
Of course, Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann argued for the remedy that the federal panel ultimately approved. But, it should be pointed out that both the state Republican Party and Gov. Haley Barbour, who has worked all of his adult life to elect Republicans, opposed Hosemann’s proposed remedy.
Barbour and the state party wanted the judges to appoint a consultant to draw districts after the Legislature was unable to because of partisan bickering.
It also is important to note that Jackson attorney Rob McDuff, who represented the Democrat-controlled House Apportionment and Elections Committee before the judicial panel, and essentially spoke for that chamber’s leadership, did not oppose Hosemann’s contention that legislative elections be held this year under the current lines.
Of course, McDuff said his first preference was that the court adopt the plan passed by the House during the 2011 session. The plan never became law because it was rejected by the Senate.
At one point, the judges said they were “inclined” to impose as a temporary remedy that House plan and the plan the Senate passed during the 2011 session.
Under that plan, no doubt, some House Democrats would have been helped. But a lot of incumbent House Republicans also would have been in much better position to win re-election this year under that plan.
For the most part, the Democrats who would have been aided have in past elections prevailed in tough contests against Republicans. The question is can they prevail again during a time when momentum seems to be on the Republicans’ side in the state?
On the other hand, the 2010 census, which led to the need to redistrict in the first place, revealed that the demographics of numerous districts currently held by Republicans have shifted dramatically. Those districts now have a much larger African-American population than they did when they were drawn in 2002. And blacks tend to vote Democratic by a wide margin.
Numerous Republican incumbents for the first time could have a legitimate Democratic opponent in a district where there is a much larger Democratic base than when they were first elected. Some of those districts currently held by Republicans now are majority black or close to it.
The same can be said of the 52-member Senate. In the plan the Senate approved in 2011 but did not become law because of partisan bickering, the black populations in numerous districts currently held by Republicans are reduced.
With elections being held under the old lines, via the judicial order, there are as many as five Republicans who are running in districts that are less advantageous to them because of the growth of the black population since 2002. Winning those districts would give Democrats a majority.
Will the Democrats win all those seats? Maybe. Maybe not.
That is why they hold elections – to find out.
A lot will depend in the House and Senate on which side can come up with viable candidates. That is a huge issue. Believe it or not, it is difficult to find viable candidates who can string a sentence together and who are willing to run for a post that requires them to be away from home for at least three months out of the year and where the pay by most standards would not be considered great.
In the coming months, we will see which side actually won the redistricting battle.
The elections will tell us.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief. Contact him at or call (601) 353-3119.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

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