JACKSON, Miss. (CN) – The NAACP claims in a federal class action that the Mississippi Legislature’s redistricting plan unconstitutionally dilutes black voting strength. While an ideal redistricting draws districts with population variations of plus or minus 5 percent, Mississippi’s state Senate districts vary by as much as 69 percent, and its House districts by as much as 134 percent, the NAACP says.
Black voters in Mississippi historically “suffer from the lingering effects of gross disparities in socioeconomic factors that adversely affect their ability to effectively participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice to elective office,” the complaint states. “There have been overt and subtle racial appeals in elections in Mississippi.”
Fourteen of the 52 state Senate districts have population deviations greater than 5 percent, with a range from +45.5% to -23.6%, according to the complaint.
Thirty-eight of the 122 state House districts have population deviations greater than 5 percent, with a range from +89.9 percent to -44.5 percent, the complaint states.
The NAACP adds that both white and black voting blocs in Mississippi tend to be cohesive.
The NAACP and its co-plaintiff voters say the state’s redistricting plans “are unenforceable as a matter of law unless and until they are precleared” by the Justice Department or a judge, under the Voting Rights Act.
The class claims the Mississippi Legislature has “refused to adopt legislative plans that do not result in discrimination against the plaintiffs.”
Defendants include Gov. Haley Barbour, Attorney General Jim Hood, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, and the Mississippi Republican and Democratic Party Executive Committees.
The class seeks declaratory judgment, a temporary restraining order and injunction.
The plaintiffs are represented by Carroll Rhodes of Hazlehurst, Miss.