NAACP wants new legislative elections

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – The NAACP’s effort to get the federal courts to order special legislative elections next year was not viewed favorably by most of the state’s political leadership.
Both Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the state’s chief elections official, and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the state Senate, voiced opposition Monday.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Hood, who would represent the state in court, said staff for the AG is still studying the NAACP’s motion to a three-judge federal panel to require a new round of elections because the districts legislators were elected from in 2011 were malapportioned.
According to The Associated Press, the state chapter of the NAACP also is asking the court to draw new legislative districts because it says the plans developed by the Mississippi Legislature and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice do not provide adequate representation to minorities.
The issue is in court because in the 2011 session the Legislature could not agree on plans to redraw the 122 House districts and 52 Senate districts because of partisan bickering. Various legislative bodies, including county boards of supervisors and city councils, are required to redistrict to match population shifts found by the decennial census.
With the Legislature unable to agree on a redistricting plan, the courts ordered the regularly scheduled elections to be held in 2011 under the existing districts, but said it would revisit the issue of whether special elections under newly drawn districts should be held later if someone raised the issue after the new districts were drawn.
The GOP won control of both chambers in the 2011 elections and drew districts earlier this year that were approved last month by the U.S. Department of Justice. Under federal law, such election changes must be approved by either the Justice Department or the federal courts.
The NAACP and many Democrats claimed those plans diluted minority voting strength by “packing” minority voters in fewer districts to lessen their impact.
When the plan was approved by the Justice Department, Rep. Kelvin Buck, D-Holly Springs, said, “I really can’t understand how the plans made it through the process with the feelings by so many that they diluted minority voting.”
Hosemann said Monday, “We believe the 2011 elections were constitutional, and our legislators should be able to serve their full four-year terms. To hold legislative elections outside of the normal four-year cycle would prove costly and unproductive for our state. Particularly in these lean budget times, I cannot be in favor of the additional expense.”
Reeves said, “The three-judge panel ruled the existing district lines were constitutional for the 2011 elections, and I look forward to the Legislature running for office under the recently pre-cleared lines in the 2015 election.”
State Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, who has been involved in redistricting efforts, said if the courts ordered new legislative elections it would make sense to force boards of supervisors, elected from old districts, to run again. He said that would have a significant impact statewide.”I do not think the NAACP will be successful, nor do I think they have much support for their position from any political persuasion,” Bryan said.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com