The group, represented by the ACLU and SPLC, claim the current election districts don’t give black voters equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.
Mississippi State Senator Derrick Simmons, a Democrat and Senate Minority Leader, is among a group of activists who have filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Election Commissioners claiming that the district boundaries used in Mississippi’s State Supreme Court elections dilute the voting strength of black Mississippians, violating the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP on behalf of individual black civic leaders, including Dyamone White, Ty Pinkins, Constance Slaughter Harvey-Burwell, and Senator Simmons. The group is suing Governor Tate Reeves, Secretary of State Michael Watson and Attorney General Lynn Fitch in their official capacities as Mississippi’s Board of Election Commissioners.
The group says the state Supreme Court district lines, which have gone unchanged for more than 35 years, should be redrawn “so that Black voters have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.”
“As it stands, none of the three Supreme Court districts are drawn with a Black voting age majority. But current District 1, which includes Jackson and part of the Mississippi Delta, could easily be redrawn, consistent with traditional principles, to have a majority of eligible Black voters,” a release from the ACLU announcing the lawsuit states. “Especially in light of the high degree of racial polarization in voting in Mississippi, such a change is needed to ensure that Supreme Court elections comply with federal law and allow Black Mississippians a fair and equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing.”
The group’s main contention is that Mississippi’s population is almost 40% black and yet in the 100 years that Mississippi has elected its Supreme Court, there have only been four black justices ever to sit on the Court, and never more than one at a time.
“It has been nearly 20 years since a Black jurist won election to the Court in a contested election,” the ACLU release states, adding, “The reason for this state of affairs is that the current Supreme Court districts dilute the voting strength of Black Mississippians.”
“Thirty-five years ago, Black lawmakers objected to the current districts. The lack of proper representation today is evidence that they were right in their objection. It’s past time to correct these unlawful maps,” said Jarvis Dortch, Executive Director of ACLU of Mississippi.
The Mississippi Supreme Court consists of nine justices elected for eight-year terms in staggered years. Three judges are elected from the three election districts.
MS Supreme Court Districts lawsuit by yallpolitics on Scribd