Redistricting plan splits Lauderdale
By By Sid Salter
June 6, 2001
It's Splitsville, baby! Can you dig it? If you live in Hinds, Lauderdale, Leake or Madison counties, get ready to split. The knives are out in the Mississippi Legislature and congressional district continuity in your counties is the main course.
Three plans to reconfigure Mississippi's present five congressional districts into four after the state lost a district following the 2000 Census all split Hinds, Leake and Madison counties. Those splits are contemplated by conservatives and liberals alike and by political partisans of every stripe.
The so-called "Community Coalition Plan" which is code for some of the leadership of the Mississippi Legislature, the state's Democratic Party leadership and the political backers of current Democratic Fourth District Congressman Ronnie Shows throws regional continuity out the window in such a fashion as to make the splitting of counties a minor offense.
Nine counties Attala, Hinds, Jones, Lauderdale, Leake, Madison, Scott, Tate and Yalobusha would be split under the "CCP" scheme. The plan creates a new "Third District" that stretches from Wilkinson County to Monroe County that gives the district about a 10 percent increase in black voting age population at 36.55 percent.
At the same time, the plan carves a new moon-shaped "First District" that links DeSoto County with Rankin County, and boasts a black voting age population of 17.50 percent.
The plan would create a new "Fourth District" to replace the old Fifth District that would link Lauderdale County with the three Gulf Coast counties and extreme Southeast Mississippi counties with some of the most sparse populations in the state. The new plan would give the new "Fourth" a black voting age population of 20.16 percent.
And the plan serves up a cozy new "Second District" for current Second District Congressman Bennie Thompson that give him a 59.45 percent black voting age population. The district runs from Adams County to Coahoma County, swelling back from the Mississippi River across the Delta maintaining in shape and composition the only recognizable shape and form from the five districts created after the 1990 Census.
Two optional plans are being circulated one that maintains regional continuity but lowers the black voting age population by one percent in the "Second District."
The second option from the "Community Coalition Plan" is one that would be as beneficial politically to current Republican Third District Congressman Chip Pickering as the "CCP" plan is to Shows. That plan is the brainchild of Republican Party operatives and Pickering supporters.
Is there any moral high ground in legislative redistricting? Not likely. This exercise isn't about the public good. This is about politics and the division of the political pie.
Some of the leadership of the Mississippi Legislature are quietly leaning toward the "Community Coalition Plan" one that promotes the political interests of their former colleague Shows in particular and the Democratic Party in general.
Historically, the old Third District was Mississippi's bedrock conservative district regardless the party label of the congressman. Think Sonny Montgomery. Under this plan, Montgomery's hometown people in Meridian would likely be calling their new congressman incumbent Fifth District Congressman Gene Taylor in Bay St. Louis.
Good politics for Mississippi Democrats? Absolutely.
Good government? Not likely.
Sid Salter is Perspective Editor/Columnist for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson. Contact him at (601) 961-7084, P.O. Box 40, Jackson, MS 39205, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.