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franklin county times

Prime time for legislators to shine on redistricting

By Staff
Nov. 1, 2001
Mississippi legislators have an extraordinary opportunity to do the right thing as they gather today in special session to consider redrawing congressional district lines. They have a constitutional mandate to accomplish this important mission and they should have the political will to do what's right for the entire state.
In our judgment, the right thing is to draw new boundaries that keep intact areas of common interests  historic, geographic and economic. Lines should take into account natural economic growth patterns, the vital significance of military installations, and the educational value of institutions of higher learning to an area.
No area of the state, for example, should have two major institutions of higher learning that are forced to compete against each other for scarce research dollars. Congressional districts should reflect the interests of people in them. Lauderdale County, for example, has little in common with the Mississippi Coast and should not be in a coastal district.
Or, as Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith said Wednesday, Meridian shouldn't be "the tail on a major dog down on the Coast," as the so-called "Shows plan" proposes. He's right about that. In fact, several of the redistricting plans that have circulated in the past few weeks would weaken the influence of east Mississippi, Lauderdale County and Meridian over a variety of issues well into the future.
A plan drawn by 86-year-old civil rights advocate, cartographer and former state Sen. Henry Kirksey makes the best sense of any plan submitted. The Kirksey plan recognizes that Mississippi is made up of four distinct geographic areas. His plan accommodates appropriate percentages of black voting age population. His plan retains the inherent strengths of the existing congressional districts while essentially merging the current third and fourth districts.
His plan would likely force an election showdown between incumbent U.S. Reps. Ronnie Shows, a Democrat, and Chip Pickering, a Republican, but it would be on terms under which either candidate could conceivably win. That choice is best left up to voters.
A great political debate will mark the special session that begins at noon today but, once the rhetoric has run its course, we hope reality and good judgment filters down into the hearts and minds of each of Mississippi's 174 lawmakers. They must make a personal decision on what's best for Mississippi as a whole, not a political decision on what's best for their own selfish interests.
Men like state Reps. Charles Young, Tommy Horne, Greg Snowden and Eric Robinson, and state Sens. Videt Carmichael and Terry Burton represent the Meridian area in Jackson. They must stand united for a redistricting plan based on fairness, one that ultimately enhances prospects for economic growth and opportunity for all.
Finding that elusive fairness in a swamp of political intrigue may be more difficult for some members of the Legislature than others. But that is the level to which they must all rise if they are to reach the higher ground demanded by these troubled times.

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