SALTER: Legislative redistribution remains intensely political and intensely partisan | Mississippi Politics and News

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Studio portrait of Sid Salter. (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)

By: Sid Salter

Once census data is compiled, state legislatures across the country are engaged in the intensely political and intensely partisan exercise of legislative redistribution for congressional districts and state legislative districts.

There are few exercises in state government that are bigger and more impactful than the redistribution process. This can have partisan repercussions that last for a decade. The parties in power see their clear opportunity to perpetuate their majorities while the powers outside of power see their opportunities to challenge.

The sad comment is that far too many Mississippians can’t tell you which congressional district they live in or the same information about the state’s legislative districts. And Mississippi is far from an outlier on these facts – if anything the rural states have greater grassroots political commitment.

In Mississippi, the four state legislative districts and the state’s 174 legislative districts are mapped out by the Mississippi legislature. Constituency lines of Congress are passed as ordinary legislation and are vetoed by governors. State legislative constituencies are adopted as a joint resolution and are therefore not vetoed by the governors.

If lawmakers fail to agree on a plan for the state’s legislative redistribution, a five-member commission made up of the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, the attorney general, the secretary of state, the Speaker of the House and the Speaker pro tempore of the Senate will formulate the plan.

To define the perimeters of the legislative redistribution, it is preferable to start with the constituent elements. Initially, the voting rights division of the US Department of Justice was part of the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat. The technically non-partisan Supreme Court is seen to be conservative, which is generally advantageous for Republicans.

In terms of legislative redistribution of states, the Justice Department will review the work of the Mississippi Standing Joint Legislative Committee on redistribution and redistribution, as well as that of the entire Mississippi legislature. The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of decisions by the DOJ and lower courts on disputes involving conflicts between states and the DOJ.

But that’s the national perspective. Mississippi has a Republican super majority in both the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Mississippi State Senate. The Mississippi State Supreme Court is also technically non-partisan, but is seen to be conservative for the benefit of Republicans.

The committee’s first hearings were held statewide. The “benchmark demographics” for the State House and Senate are also important in understanding the process. The census identified the population of Mississippi at 2,961,279. In Mississippi House there are 122 districts – which would be divided evenly, making the “ideal district size” 24,273 citizens.

In the Mississippi Senate, there are 52 districts – which, evenly divided, would make the “ideal district size” 56,948 citizens. While this sounds simple and straightforward, it really isn’t.

The census revealed discrepancies in the ideal Senate district size of 13,226 (+ 23.22%) additional citizens and as few as -10,244 (-17.99%) citizens.

In Mississippi House, the census found discrepancies in the ideal district size of up to 11,945 (+ 49.21%) additional citizens and as few as -5,296 (-21.82%) citizens.

So the redistribution then is just a matter of getting the math to work at “ideal district size”, isn’t it? As Lee Corso says on TV, “Not so fast, my friend.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that all states must adhere to these guidelines: “All states must adhere to federal constitutional requirements relating to population and anti-discrimination. For legislative districts of states, the equal protection clause of 14e The amendment to the Constitution of the United States requires that the districts be substantially equal. Some say that a 10 percent difference in population from one district to another is a safe norm.

“However, this has not proven to be guaranteed protection against review or review by the courts.

In addition to population equality, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits plans that intentionally or inadvertently discriminate on the basis of race, which could dilute the minority vote.

Other basic redistribution guidelines in Mississippi relate to district compactness areas, district contiguity (are all parts connected?), And the preservation of counties and other political subdivisions and communities of interest. Less codified but intensely influential is the notion of creating districts that do not “twin” incumbents – which means drawing a district that pits two legislators against each other.

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