Sunday, August 22, 2010

Racial Politics in Mississippi Redistricting

An interesting article here from the Northern Mississippi/ Memphis area.

OXFORD -- DeSoto County's black residents, who say they generally have been shut out of local elected offices, want state legislators dealing with a decade of population changes to create at least one minority district that will represent their interests.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting is holding 12 meetings across the state to gather citizen input into how Mississippi's 52 Senate districts, 122 House districts and four U.S. House Districts should be redrawn to ensure equality of representation.

Such redistricting must be done after every U.S. census to make sure no district is substantially larger or smaller than another to comply with the Supreme Court's one-person, one-vote requirements........

"We'd ask you all to really consider moving the (district) lines so an African-American can be elected," said Rev. Nathaniel Partee of Lake Cormorant.

Partee and a handful of other speakers laid out their concerns to the redistricting committee during an hour-long hearing at the University of Mississippi's Fulton Chapel.

"We feel we haven't been properly represented. That's the bottom line," Partee said

DeSoto County presents legislators with a particularly difficult challenge because the county's population has grown faster than any other in the state, with an estimated 42 percent growth between 2000 and 2010.

Many of those new residents are minorities and live in the northern part of the county, said Michael Smith of Southaven, vice chairman of the DeSoto County Democratic Party.

Smith told legislators that DeSoto County had more than 34,300 black residents, about 22 percent of its total population, according to 2009 estimates.

"Ask them (legislators) to consider a majority district that's representing a minority," he told committee members.......................

DeSoto County should have dramatically increased influence at the state Capitol after redistricting.

Legislators have said DeSoto County could wind up with eight state representatives -- three living in the county, three living outside the county but representing large parts of the county, plus two new members -- and three state senators........................

This is rather interesting because the growth of this County appears not to be just fueled by white Flight. According to this 2005 estimates showed the County was 11 percent black. Therefore we are seeing a huge black migration out of Memphis it seems. Why? At first I thought this might be black middle and upper class "black flight" and it very well might be. However according to the Wilkipedia page:

DeSoto County had the second highest per capita income in the State of Mississippi. However, as of 2008, the per capita income was declining, and the wealthy demographic clearly preferred other counties in the area, particularly Fayette, TN, or although not in the Memphis metro area, Lafayette County, MS.

No doubt some of this migration is Casino jobs related in the neighboring Tunica county. However that still does not explain why most of these new black residents would be living in the northern part of the County. I am sure I am missing some local factor.

Looking at the rather blunt comments it is interesting that both sides in this don't see the bigger picture.

I am sure the Mississippi State GOP is all for this new District. While I understand the want and very well possible need to have a African American politico elected, the people that support such a move make a somewhat illogical jump of logic that this will cause better representation of black concerns.

Minority majority districts I believe dilutes minority voting power and influence rather than enhances it. If you believe that black voting interest is best represented by lets say Democrats then arranging a district that will take in most of the black population would seem counter productive with whites trending more and more GOP in some areas.

In effect you give up possibly being the power broker in the other districts in exchange for one elected black official. You are also possibly laying the ground of long term GOP dominance in the county with all these new districts of because population growth.


KellitaJ said...
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KellitaJ said...
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KellitaJ said...

This was a well written article, I enjoyed it.
Recently DeSoto County's
State Senator Flowers said " he can't see the legislature drawing up a district, looking at anything but population". (1)
As a 17 year democratic resident of DeSoto County (DC) who attended the 2010 Oxford Redistricting hearing and gave testimony, I will comment that we're expecting the 2010 Census to show that our DC minority population has grown from 11% in 2000 (no Latinos), to around 40% in 2010 (probably 7% Latino but few voting) when the new Census (figures which are reportedly going to be released) Feb 7, 2011. the County population has grown so much that we're expecting to gain one more Senator and possibly 2-3 more house seats. "Redistricting is the struggle to create fair districts in order to re-distribute power to end disparities." Who decides what's fair when we redistrict is our local DC Board of Supervisors and the MS State Legislature. DC has only elected 2 minorities IN ITS HISTORY, (to the School Board) and currently only has one (out of 8 total) Democrat State Representative: John Mayo.
Because the DC community has a responsibility and a right to participate in redistricting, we recently formed a committee. The DeSoto Redistricting Committee's (DRC) purpose is to propose redistricting maps, recruit democratic candidates, provide input at public hearings, and promote minority representation of Asians, Blacks, and Latinos. (
We are asking the MS State Legislative Redistricting Committee to please use the 3 precincts and surrounding area that Obama/Childers won in 2008, that are adjacent/contiguous to each other, but are currently divided with different representatives (Southaven South, Horn Lake East and Horn Lake West) as the target area for a new Senate and Rep. district in DC. This area has: 1) party affiliation demonstrated by voting behavior, 2) a cohesion of the community who send their children to minority majority Horn Lake Schools and shop at local shops and churches, and 3) share the community interest of not having their state representation continue to be split up.
The DRC have been attending classes that train citizens about how to redistrict and encourage citizens to participate in their community's redistricting. Redistricting is a once in a decade opportunity to end systematic exclusion of minorities from decision making on public policy. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act applies to specific states, like MS, with a history of systematic exclusion of
minorities from the right to vote so that any change in redistricting plans must be pre-cleared by the US Justice Dept. before becoming effective. The Justice Dept. can also receive confidential communications from citizens about the adopted or alternative plans and consider these comments in its assessment process. Their contact information is: 202-514-2000 x voting dept. or fax 2021-616-9514 .

(1) Senator Flowers statement is from,0,3406138.story