Meridian Star

May 21, 2013

Court won't get involved in Mississippi redistricting

From staff and wire reports
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court won't order new legislative elections in Mississippi over complaints about the timing of the state's redistricting.

    The Mississippi NAACP had challenged the state's 2011 state elections because the Legislature did not immediately use the 2010 census to draw new district lines in 2011. The state House and Senate instead argued for several weeks before ending their 2011 session without adopting new maps.

    The NAACP had asked for that election to be set aside and special elections to be held under a court-ordered plan. It said that using the old maps violated the one-person, one-vote principle by diluting African-American voting strength

    Courts affirmed a ruling that allowed state lawmakers to run in their old districts that year.

    The justices, without comment Monday, upheld the lower court rulings.

    Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement that "Supreme Court brings closure to the redistricting battle brought on by the 2010 Census."

    "We passed a plan on a bipartisan vote, and today's final ruling validates the hard work of our legislators," Reeves said.

    Carroll Rhodes, the attorney representing the NAACP in the case, did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.

    Current lawmakers were elected in November 2011 in districts that were drawn after the 2000 Census, and Republicans won control of both chambers. The 52 senators and 122 House members are chosen for four-year terms.

    In 2012, the House and Senate approved updated district lines in 2012 to account for changes revealed by the 2010 Census. Because of Mississippi's history of racial discrimination, it's required to get federal approval for any changes in election laws or procedures. In September of 2012, the U.S. Justice Department approved those maps but said people or groups could still challenge the redrawn lines in court.

    In October of 2012, the NAACP asked a panel of three federal judges to redraw the districts and order a new round of elections. That request was denied by Judge E. Grady Jolly of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judges Tom S. Lee and Louis Guirola Jr. in December of 2012.

    Members of the House and Senate redistricting committees intervened in the lawsuit.

    Redistricting has also been at the forefront this year in the city of Meridian's municipal elections.

    The Department of Justice notified the city of Meridian on March 8 that they would not object to the changes in ward lines for the city's municipal elections based on the 2010 census.

    The letter from DOJ arrived on the last day that office-seekers had to qualify as candidates. At least one Meridian City Council candidate had to withdraw from one ward and run in a different ward.

    At the time, the president of the Meridian/Lauderdale County NAACP asked the city of Meridian to extend the qualifying period one month for candidates interested in running for office on the Meridian City Council.