Legislative panel intervenes in NAACP remap suit

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The House and Senate Joint Redistricting Committee voted Thursday to intervene in opposition to the NAACP’s efforts to force new legislative elections in 2013.
Rep. Bill Denny, R-Jackson, said forcing new legislative elections next year – two years earlier than scheduled – would be “costly for no reason.”
The state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is asking a three-judge federal panel to order new elections because the districts legislators were chosen from in 2011 were unconstitutional because they were malapportioned.
The NAACP also is asking the federal courts to draw new districts because the House and Senate plans approved during the 2012 session violated federal law by diluting minority impact.
Those legislatively adopted plans were approved by the U.S. Department of Justice in September. Under federal law, changes to Mississippi elections, such as redistricting, must be approved by the Justice Department or the federal courts.
Tommy Cardin, a Jackson attorney who has been hired by the Redistricting Committee to help with redrawing House and Senate districts, said it made sense for the committee to intervene.
“We drew the plan so we are in the best position to defend the plan being the committee that drew the plan,” Cardin said.
Plus, he said the committee would be the “direct voice of the Legislature” in the court action.
Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, was the only member of the Joint Committee to vote against intervening. He said he believes new legislative elections should be held because members are currently serving in malapportioned districts.
To meet the constitutional mandate, the 122 House districts and 52 Senate districts must be redrawn every 10 years to match population shifts found by the Census. In 2011, the Legislature could not agree on plans to redraw the House and Senate districts because of partisan bickering.
The federal court ordered elections under the old districts and said it would consider the possibility of new elections after new districts were drawn if someone filed a lawsuit – as the NAACP now has.
Cardin said Thursday no federal court hearing has been set yet on the issue.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com