Young, Burton to begin work on redistricting
From staff reports
Jan. 10, 2001
JACKSON Two Meridian area legislators are in key positions as a legislative panel begins to redraw the political boundaries from which candidates will run for a variety of offices in Mississippi for at least the next decade.
State Rep. Charles Young, D-Meridian, named by House Speaker Tim Ford, and state Sen. Terry Burton, D-Newton, who was named to the committee Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck are among members of the powerful committee.
By the time their work is done and it is just now beginning boundaries for Mississippi's congressional districts, legislative and municipal districts and regionally-elected commissions such as Transportation and Public Service may all change.
The committee will work with new census data in determining how to accommodate population shifts in shaping political lines. Its work becomes especially important due to Mississippi's loss of one congressional seat, an action which political observers predict may force a showdown between U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., and U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss. in the 2002 congressional elections.
Already, some state legislators whose districts are oddly shaped are hoping for relief in the next redistricting as the committee maps out the 174 state legislative districts.
One member is Sen. Joseph Stogner, whose district stretches more than 100 miles in south Mississippi and takes in four counties in a pattern resembling a water faucet.
We have some districts right now that are difficult to serve,'' said Stogner, R-Sandy Hook.
The technical process ensures that equal numbers of people as near as possible are in each legislative and congressional district. For example, 2.8 million residents will be split among 52 state Senate districts and 122 House districts.
In the past, some districts have been drawn to help incumbents win re-election, taking into account racial and economic factors.
Stogner said the goal in the 2001 redistricting will be fairness, but when you deal with legislators, there's always going to be politics involved.''
The joint committee will come up with a congressional plan for the Legislature to vote on, likely in a summer special session. A redrawing of legislative districts will likely wait a year.
The joint committee has 19 Democrats and five Republicans, 18 whites and six blacks, and one woman and 23 men. It will work with computers to process census figures down to the voting precincts levels.
Hopefully we can stay away from the gerrymandering districts,'' Burton said.
Mississippi has had five congressmen since 1960. Because the state's population growth did not keep pace with that in other states, Mississippians will only elect four congressmen in future years.
Somebody's going to lose, that's a given,'' said Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, another member of the redistricting committee.
Flaggs said just because more Democrats serve on the committee, Democratic incumbent congressmen will not necessarily receive better treatment.
It could be anybody's ball game once we get in there,'' Flaggs said.