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franklin county times

Political power on the line in special session

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
Oct. 31, 2001
Mississippi lawmakers convene in special session Thursday with no less than the next decade of congressional political power at stake.
And while a multitude of plans for redrawing congressional district lines are on the table, lawmakers today have only a single point of agreement: How things will turn out is anybody's guess.
At the Capitol on Tuesday, Mississippi Republicans officially endorsed a plan drafted by former state Sen. Henry Kirksey, a civil rights leader and cartographer who at age 86 is still involved in the process. "I believe it is important for the Legislature to do what is in the best interests of the people of Mississippi," state GOP chairman Jim Herring said. "The Kirksey plan splits only one county in the state as opposed to the Democrats' tornado' plan that splits 16 counties."
Kirksey, a lifelong Democrat, drew a plan that some observers say would create a congressional district that favors incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering over Democratic U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows.
State Rep. Greg Snowden (R-Meridian) said he doubted the Kirksey Plan would get very far in Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats.
A key issue in the debate is the black voting percentage of a new central district in which substantial portions of Shows and Pickering's districts could be merged. How the lines are finally drawn will have a strong bearing on the outcome of this race.
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck constructed a Senate plan earlier this month that would put the black voting age population at 34.35 percent in the central district. Under that plan, Lauderdale County and other east Mississippi counties would stay intact, except for Clarke, which would be split between two new districts.
Another proposal, apparently backed by House Speaker Tim Ford and known informally as the "tornado plan," would cut Lauderdale County in two while increasing the black voting percentage of the central district.
Kirksey's plan puts more of Pickering's territory than Shows' into the combined new district. It also gives the combined district a black voting age population of 30.4 percent.
Spokesmen have said Shows wants a higher black voting age population than that. Mississippi history shows a higher black voting age population helps Democrats and a lower one helps Republicans.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.

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