Lawsuit Filed on Mississippi Redistricting Plan

On Thursday, March 18, the NAACP Mississippi State Conference filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Mississippi board of election commission from adopting a racially discriminatory redistricting plan that has not been pre-cleared by the United States Department of Justice.

“The NAACP calls on the legislators to formulate an equitable redistricting plan that is inclusive of all Mississippians,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “States are required to use Census results to draw new districts based on population fluctuations; this must be done without partisan posturing so that fair boundaries are drawn. We commend the NAACP Mississippi State Conference for their efforts to protect the voting rights that form the core of our freedom.”

United States Census results require every state government to approve a new redistricting plan that evenly distributes the state's population among electoral districts. In Mississippi both the House and Senate must approve each redistricting map before the plans go to the U.S. Department of Justice for final approval. MS-NAACP filed the suit immediately after the State Senate voted to break custom with the regular process for redistricting for state legislative redistricting, thus creating an impasse in approving new plans to be submitted to the Justice Department before the end of the regular session on April 4, 2011. If a new redistricting plan is not adopted this year, legislators could run twice: once this year under mal-apportioned lines and again next year under a court ordered plan or a plan adopted during next year’s legislative session.

“The Mississippi NAACP urges members of the Mississippi State Legislature to adopt a redistricting plan before the end of the legislative session that reflect the needs and interest of all the citizens of the state. Mississippi has a long history of masking racially divisive agendas and calling it partisan politics,” said NAACP Mississippi State Conference President Derrick Johnson.

The NAACP Redistricting Project, of which the Mississippi State Conference NAACP is an integral part, is a collaborative effort between the national NAACP, NAACP units across the country and partners. The purpose of the Redistricting Project is to ensure that redistricting efforts involving local entities such as school boards, cities, counties and parishes, as well as efforts involving state legislative and other bodies are fair, transparent, and consistent with applicable legal requirements of the Voting Rights Act and Equal Protection.

“Redistricting is at the heart of our nation’s precious voting rights,” added NAACP General Counsel Kim Keenan. “The NAACP is working with its branches throughout the country to closely monitor this important process.”