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Senate releases redistricting proposal

A redistricting plan unveiled by state Senate leaders Tuesday would leave the entirety of Lincoln and Lawrence counties in District 39.

     The only changes to District 39 would be the loss of its current Simpson County precincts and the addition of voting boxes in Copiah and Walthall counties.

     District 39 Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, approved of her district in a Tuesday interview.

     “I’m very pleased with my district,” Doty said. “It’s still some good strong Republican boxes. I expected change and knew it was coming.”

     If the new lines are passed, District 39 would add four precincts in Copiah County: Wesson, Stronghope Union, Shady Grove and Georgetown South.

     The new District 39 lines would also take in eight Walthall County precints, winding through the county down to Tylertown.

     Simpson County was an area of strength for Doty in last November’s election, but she’s confident she can replicate her Simpson County success in her district’s new precincts.

     “We did a lot of work in Simpson County and built a lot of relationships,” Doty said. “I don’t see why I won’t have those same relationships in Tylertown and, certainly, I know some great people in Wesson.”

     However, Doty was prepared for the loss of those Simpson boxes.

     “We had all met individually with the committee about our district,” Doty said. “I knew at my personal meeting that I probably would not keep Simpson, so we had talked about some areas that would be good for me.”

     To the west of Lincoln County, Franklin County would continue to sit entirely within District 37 under the proposed redistricting plan.

     Indeed, District 37 would see only minimal change. The district lines would take in some new precincts in northern Pike County, but lose a few Pike precincts currently in the district. District 37 would also lose two precincts in western Adams County.

     Otherwise, the district remains intact from its current boundaries.

     District 37 Sen. Melanie Sojourner, R-Natchez, said she’s not completely happy, but recognizes redistricting won’t make everyone happy.

     “If I were going to draw it, it would have looked different,” Sojourner said.

     She added, though, that changes to District 37 are not drastic.

     “Statistically it’s very similar to the district I had,” Sojourner said. “I’ve still got residents in the same four counties I was before.”

     Sojourner did see a loss of split precincts in her district, a move she applauded. Sojourner said she’d requested no split precincts in conversation with the redistricting committee, a request that saw results.

     District 37 dropped from 14 split precincts to none.

     “It’s expensive for taxpayers, and it’s expensive for campaigns,” Sojourner said, explaining her opposition to split precincts.

     The new map would lower the number of split precincts statewide from 129 to 14. Reducing split precincts had been a stated goal of the redistricting effort, led by Republican Merle Flowers, of Southhaven.

     Other statewide changes would include an increase of majority-black districts from 12 to 15.

     Fast-growing Desoto County, an area of Republican strength, would also gain a district under the plan. To maintain 52 districts, however, two districts represented by Democrats would be combined in the map drawn by Republicans.

     Both Doty and Sojourner expect the map to pass easily. It’s expected the Senate will vote on it today.

     “I’m not hearing any widespread problems with it,” Doty said.

     Sojourner echoed those comments.

     “We’re all ready to wrap this session up,” she added, laughing.

     District lines must be redrawn every 10 years to ensure the population in each district remains roughly the same.

     Due to Mississippi’s history of suppressing minority voters, the U.S. Department of Justice must provide preclearance any of redistricting plan in the state.