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GOP unveils House redistricting plan

As far as their backyards are concerned, Becky Currie and Bobby Moak don’t have much to fight about, but on the floor of the Mississippi House of Representatives, things will be different.

     A Republican-led House redistricting committee released new legislative maps Wednesday. Moak, District 53’s Democratic representative, and Currie, District 92’s Republican representative, largely approve of their proposed districts.

     “I would be very happy with that district,” Moak said. “There’s not anything that’s upsetting to me. Anywhere down there is just fine for me.”

     Currie offered a more qualified opinion of her proposed district but was positive.

     “I’m not upset with my district,” Currie said. “It’s not exactly the map I would have drawn, but I have a good district.”

     However, Moak, the House minority leader, remains certain the issue will be decided in court due to problems he sees with the statewide map, a map Currie called very fair. She expressed confidence the Republican-proposed plan will be adopted.

     House Democrats are drawing their own map, Moak said. It’s unclear when their plan will be released.

     Legislative districts must be redrawn every 10 years to equalize population of the districts across the state.

     Within Lincoln County, the Districts 53 and 92 lines remain largely unchanged.

     District 53 would pick up more of eastern Lincoln County, including the entirety of the Fair River, Enterprise and East Lincoln voting precincts. District 53 would also lose parts of northern Lincoln County.

     The big district-wide changes include the loss of western Franklin County for District 53 and the addition of parts of Copiah County for District 92.

     District 53 would also take parts of northeast Franklin County from District 92. District 92 would pick up a complete Lawrence County precinct and split two others, while District 53 adds a precinct in Jefferson Davis County.

     Though new district lines won’t take effect until the next elections, Currie encouraged future constituents to contact her.

     “I hope to get to know them better before the next election,” Currie said.

     In District 91, which occupies most of Lawrence and Jefferson Davis counties, Rep. Bob Evans doesn’t find his proposed district objectionable.

     “As far as it concerns me personally, there’s not a whole lot to holler about,” Evans said. “Ninety-one in and of itself is not a whole heck of a lot different than before.”

     Both Evans and Currie hate to see legislative lines cut family ties.

     “I’m attached to Franklin County,” Currie said. “I have family there. But I have friends in Hazlehurst.”

     Evans said he grew up near the areas of Lawrence County lost to District 92.

     “That’s where I got a strong vote,” Evans said. “Believe it or not, they know me, and they still voted for me.”

     Looking beyond the Southwest Mississippi area, Evans and Moak both expressed displeasure that the Republican plan forces several incumbent Democrats to run against each other.

     “It is an evident attempt to cut down on the number of districts that’s represented by Democrats,” Evans said. “We all know what happens in redistricting.”

     Under the proposed plan, five pairs of incumbent representatives would be forced to run against each other. Three of those pairings would pit a Democrat against a Democrat, and two pairings would pit a Democrat against a Republican.

     Moak echoed Evans.

     “Whoever is in leadership, whoever has the pencil, is going to draw the plan to their benefit,” Moak said. “It’s our job as a minority to bring them back into reality.”

     One of those Republican/Democrat pairings would involve Rep. Bill Denny, R-Jackson, chairman of the redistricting committee.

     Currie pointed to that fact as a sign of the plan’s fairness. To Currie, forcing himself to face another incumbent shows Denny drew the lines where the numbers called for them to be drawn, ignoring any agenda.

     “He knows he has a big election on his hands, and he drew the lines that way anyway,” Currie said.