The Mississippi House took care of one of its biggest chores Thursday, as it approved the congressional redistricting plan that continues the split of Hinds and Madison counties by a 76-42 vote.
The bill is now headed to the Senate.
Every 10 years, the Legislature must draw new district boundaries for both congressional and state legislative districts. Since state lawmakers won’t be up for re-election in 2022, the Joint Congressional Redistricting Committee put the priority on getting the congressional district plan passed.
The bill didn’t pass without controversy, especially since it continues to split Madison County between the Third and Second districts. Under the plan, the northern part of Madison County will become part of the Second District, represented by Democrat U.S. Representative Benny Thompson.
It is also the state’s lone majority minority district with a minority voting age population of 62 percent. The new Second District will be 61 percent minority.
The southern part will remain as part of the Third District, represented by Republican U.S. Representative Michael Guest, along with a few areas in Hinds County.
State Rep. Jason White, R-West, said it was a good idea to not have Hinds County in one district since party control of the U.S. Congress often changes and Jackson, especially on infrastructure issues, needed all of the representation it could get.
The reason the lines had to be redrawn is because of population shifts. The Second District lost 65,000 residents, while the other three districts gained population, ranging from the Third District with 1.24 percent growth to the Fourth District, which gained 4.82 percent in the 2020 Census.
Those aren’t the only geographical splits, as a small section of Jones County will be in the Third District and Oktibbeha County will be split between the First (represented by U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly) and Third Districts.
State Rep. Robert Johnson III, D-Natchez, criticized the lack of an alternative plan offered by the redistricting committee. He says the Second District represents 40 percent of the state’s land mass.
State Rep. White said that it was the only way to draw districts compliant with the constitutional “One man, one vote” requirement. Each congressional district will represent about 740,319 residents.
State Rep. Johnson put up an amendment to change the district boundaries that were proposed by the JCRC. His proposed boundaries would’ve removed the few sections of Hinds County in the Third District and put them in the Second.
It was rejected by a 76-43 vote.