OUR OPINION: Congressional districts need to be adopted for 2012

By NEMS Daily Journal

A three-judge federal panel has suggested a congressional redistricting plan for Mississippi that would take effect for the 2012 party primaries and the general election – unless objections are filed by 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the U.S. District Court for Southern Mississippi at the federal courthouse in Jackson.
The changes, if ordered, appear to meet the mandates of the Voting Rights Act related to maintaining proportionate strength of minority voting and population equity in the state’s four congressional districts.
However, the appearance of fairness can be questioned, and sometimes a court’s plan is reversed. Congressional redistricting is supposed to be a duty for the Legislature, but no serious effort moved forward to fulfill that duty for the 2012 redistricting.
The new map by the three-judge panel would change all four districts with population shifts and boundary realignments, including loss of counties in the 1st Congressional District. The seat is held by Republican U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo. Nunnelee issued a statement on Tuesday saying he had no objections but regretted losing Grenada, Panola and Yalobusha counties to the 2nd District, a seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Flora. Thompson, who is black, is the senior member of the Mississippi House delegation.
Mississippi has a 37 percent black population and one majority-black district. Two Democratic incumbents lost seats in the 2010 elections in Mississippi: Travis Childers in the 1st District and Gene Taylor in the 4th District. Those seats now are held by Republicans.
The majority-black 2nd District lost population between 2000 and 2010, so it had to expand to take in people.
Congressional candidates’ qualifying deadline is Jan. 13 for the March 13 primaries.
Here are the changes:
* Panola, Yalobusha and Grenada counties were moved from the northern 1st District, to the Delta’s 2nd District, represented by Thompson, first elected in 1993.
* Leake County is no longer split between District 2 and the central District 3. It will be entirely in 2.
* Winston and Webster counties are no longer split between 1 and 3. They’ll each be entirely in 1. Republican Henry Ross resides in Webster County. He was one of Nunnelee’s primary opponents in 2010.
* Oktibbeha County will be newly split between 1 and 3. It has been entirely in 3.
* Marion and Jones counties will in the southern District 4.
* Clarke County will be newly split between 3 and 4. It has been entirely in 4.
Mississippi needs redistricting stability, and we believe fairness is possible.