The Committee will reconvene in December for more work, specifically as it relates to Congressional redistricting.
The Mississippi Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee held a meeting on Friday at the Capitol as it continues to consider its recommendations to the full Legislature on the redistricting plan for the state when the 2022 session begins in January. It is the committee’s first meeting since holding public comment hearings around the state over the summer.
Federal courts have redrawn Congressional Districts in Mississippi for the past two cycles. The Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee hopes to change that his year, adopting their own plan using the court’s criteria, the most important of which is the equal distribution of the population in the four districts.
The committee approved the congressional criteria plan at today’s meeting. The lawmakers plan to reconvene in early December to present the congressional redistricting plan before qualifying begins in January for the 2022 midterms.
As for state legislative districts, the committee has a little more leeway in that state districts can vary within a reasonable percentage – plus or minus 5% – and do not have to be exactly equal in population.
Contiguity, compactness, county and municipality splits, distances of travel, and other factors are of importance when considering redrawing these districts.
Chairmen State Rep. Jim Beckett and State Senator Dean Kirby received a letter from a group of liberal organizations ahead of today’s meeting questioning the process by which lawmakers are going about redistricting and urging them to additional public hearings to respond to any proposed new maps before the Legislature acts.
“The Committee cannot perform the complex task of Congressional redistricting in the course of only two meetings, one of which was devoted primarily to procedural issues,” the groups write to Rep. Beckett and Sen. Kirby. “The signatories to this letter therefore have significant concerns that members of the Committee have met, deliberated, and decided issues regarding redistricting (or intend to do so) in private despite the OMA’s [Open Meetings Act] requirement that such meetings, deliberations, and decisions take place in public.”
Those joining in the letter to the committee were the ACLU of Mississippi, League of Women Voters of Mississippi, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Mississippi State Conference NAACP, Southern Echo, One Voice, Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Votes, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.