Mississippians could have fairer representation with newly drawn maps
New political boundaries should be the new “bread and butter” for Mississippians as we approach a crucial time when resident voices could make a difference.
This year, three community organizations in Mississippi—Echo of the South, A voice and the Mississippi NAACP— joined forces to rally community activism in the redistricting process. The Mississippi NAACP has already presented alternative plans at the state level, while Southern Echo and One Voice are working to ensure fair maps at the county and municipal levels.
All three organizations invite other Mississippians to the table.
Redistricting, also known as redistribution, is the process of redrawing political boundaries for state, county, and municipal elections. New ward and district maps are redrawn after the decennial census to align with population changes. New maps must redistribute population growth or decline, remain compact, and adhere to the “one person, one vote” principle.
Districts for the state and congressional levels are complete and went into effect earlier this year, but county and city-level maps are still being finalized. Knowing more about the issue now can help us come together to make more changes for the better in the next round of redistricting.
Historically, Mississippi redistribution cards have favored majority white interests. Little has changed. Today, political maps favor one of the two major political parties over the other. One is “red”. One is “blue”.
Underdogs in blue
Nearly 250 years ago, American settlers decried that “taxation without representation” was unacceptable and would not work. Their resistance led to the American Revolution, a bloody war to control taxes, resources and land. British troops wore red. General George Washington’s soldiers, on the other hand, wore blue.
As a number of historians will attest, many current members of the Republican Party all ideals reminiscent of the Democratic Party of past generations— in the same vein as how current Democrats align themselves with certain values that those who called themselves Republicans once boasted. Political rhetoric and colors may change over time, but political power transforms the economy, which equates to the very bread and butter families put on their kitchen tables and how those in power allocate resources of State.
Redistricting is the center of political power and politics. Politics is a means to an end. Political constituencies must not dilute black electoral strength. Just 30 years ago, a community coalition made up of the late Henry Kirksey, Southern Echo and the Mississippi NAACP drew alternative redistricting plans which produced 21 new districts, giving blacks better opportunities to gain seats in the Mississippi Legislative Assembly.
Today, Mississippi Republicans control the state government. Mississippi has been particularly red since Gov. Kirk Fordice took the reins in January 2004. Mississippi politics had a bipartisan influence when a larger black caucus emerged, but today politics is more polarized.
Mississippians and visitors pay taxes on goods and services such as potato chips, electronics, hotel stays, dining experiences and countless others. The slices of the pie available to poor and black Mississippians have dwindled. Since the state won’t be redrawing new lines until after the 2030 decennial census, you better believe the fight for fair neighborhoods and neighborhoods is crucial now.
The Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature has failed to adequately fund Jackson’s infrastructure capital. Last year, a lawsuit challenged the state prison’s unsanitary water and sewage system. Every human being deserves clean drinking water. All taxpayers deserve funds to be allocated to sustain health and life.
State leaders criticize Jackson executives’ handling of city water system billing flaws, but the state’s handling of the biggest social fund embezzlement scam scandal in history — one involving mother-son duo Nancy and Zachary New, who are white — is also an example of stewardship flaws. Text messages indicate that NFL athlete Brett Favre and former Governor Phil Bryant may be linked to the scandal. This $24 million fraudulent scheme effectively took milk out of the mouths of tens of thousands of poor Mississippi families.
Today, Republicans have amassed a superpower in state politics. The party controls the House, the Senate and the seats of governor. In Magnolia State, the Democrats are the underdogs. Republicans can pass state measures without any Democratic votes. Even though red state lawmakers control the majority, blue underdogs have power in major counties and municipalities.
Importance of getting involved
During the latest round of redistricting, the Mississippi Legislature held nine public hearings across the state. The first was on August 5, 2021 at Meridian Community College. The next six hearings were held at other community and state colleges. The last hearing was held at the State Capitol in Jackson on August 23, 2021.
As you may have heard or read, Mississippi Supreme Court Districts have gone unchallenged for 1987—35 long years. Last spring, the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint which challenges the Supreme Court districts. The lawsuit claims the districts are diluting black voting strength and have prevented black people from electing more prime candidates to the state’s highest court. The trial is still ongoing.
“Redistricting is a valuable tool to increase community input on how it is represented politically and who it stands with as a political body,” Nsombi Lambright, executive director of One Voice, told me per email in July 2022.
Redistricting results from the decennial census and is a component of responsible governance in which citizens must engage while ensuring democracy, as President Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address (in 1863): “A government of the people, by the people, for the people, will not perish from the Earth. ” Rachel Mayes, executive director of Southern Echo, told me via email in July. “Talk to your local officials to understand the state of redistricting where you live; there is still time to get involved.
The legislature has adopted state maps, but communities have a chance to influence county and local redistricting cycles. Community groups are developing alternative redistricting plans for local districts, including city aldermen and members of city councils, school boards, county councils and other influential positions.
Communities in Tunica, Lee, Quitman, Leake, Pike and Amite counties have submitted alternative community maps to their watch boards for consideration.
“Redistricting has as much influence on who gets elected as voting,” Charles Taylor, acting executive director of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP, told me via email July 6, 2022. “Gerrymandering is the one of the most dangerous forms of voter suppression.We must continue to fight for a level playing field at all levels.
Everyone come. I encourage those who care about accurate and fair representation to get involved. Let’s push the redistricting pen with alternative plans in each department and each municipality. The pen is powerful. Let’s use it.
“All politics is local, and we are currently organizing communities to fight for fair maps and representation by engaging in the redistricting process at county and municipal levels,” Deputy Director Brenda Hyde wrote to me. from Southern Echo, in an email dated July. 6, 2022. “It’s not too late to join the fight for fair maps in Mississippi.”
To request technical assistance or to get involved in the redistricting process in your community, email Rachel Mayes at [email protected]Nsombi Lambright at [email protected] or Charles Taylor at [email protected].
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff, or its board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, submit up to 1,200 words and sources verifying the information included at [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.