Lawmakers split on future of redistricting

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

With a Supreme Court decision preservingthe Nov. 8 legislative elections, local lawmakers are preparing toundergo the redistricting process again next year.

    Lines for each of the 122 House districts and 52 Senate districtsare required to be redrawn following each census. This year, theMississippi Legislature failed to successfully adopt aredistricting plan in response to the 2010 census, prompting alawsuit by the NAACP.

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    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case,supporting a lower court ruling that the legislative electionscould continue this year under the old lines.

    The next legislative session will, therefore, have to take up theissue again.

    “What will happen when we go back in session, the Legislature willonce again attempt to redraw districts,” said District 53 Rep.Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, in a phone interview Wednesday.”Hopefully this time, House and Senate leaders will agree as towhat the makeup of the districts should be.”

    Moak is unopposed for his representative seat, but intends to runfor Speaker of the House to replace the retiring Billy McCoy,D-Rienzi. If he becomes speaker, Moak would be very influential inthe redistricting process.

    “If it was me (as speaker), I think the dynamics would be set up sothat we could come up with a combined and acceptable plan to bothhouses,” Moak said concerning his potential role as speaker.

    Different faces will be in the leadership of both houses this year.In addition to a new speaker, a new lieutenant governor will takethe role of president of the Senate. Current Lt. Gov. Phil Bryantis the Republican candidate for governor.

    Overall, Moak expressed optimism about the process next year, evenwith the shifts produced by the upcoming election.

    “I think even if the faces were exactly the same as last year, Ibelieve people have a different outlook on the redistrictingprocess,” Moak said. “I’m hoping we can be more congenial thistime.”

    District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, seemed less positiveconcerning the process when contacted Thursday morning.

    “I’m sure it will end up in court again,” Currie said. “Whoeverdoesn’t like the result will sue.”

    Currie said much of the outcome will depend on who wins and wholoses in the Nov. 8 elections, but she also said she doubted thepresence of a new lieutenant governor would change much.

    She did have positive words for the Supreme Court’s ruling.

    “I’m glad it came down like it did,” she said of the ruling. “Ithink it was a good day for the constitution.”

    Ken Dale Sullivan, Currie’s Democratic opponent, said he could notsay much about the redistricting process until seeing the resultsof the election.

    Republican candidate for Senate District 39 Sally Doty echoed thesentiment.

    “It all depends on the structure of the House and Senate,” Dotysaid.

    She did offer comment on how the process played out this year.

    “I think this year we got the cart before the horse,” Doty said.”We were in litigation before we had even finished theprocess.”

    Doty’s Democratic opponent W.L. Rayborn could not be reached forcomment.