December 20, 2011 10:59:00 AM
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON -- Federal judges on Monday released a plan to update Mississippi's four congressional districts, which decreases the number of split counties from eight to four, the secretary of state said.
The judges say their plan preserves core constituencies of each district.
"Notwithstanding the movement or potential movement of 146,000 persons, we made as few changes to the current districts as possible," the three federal judges wrote. "Some changes were inevitable."
With a population that's 37 percent black, the state has one majority-black district that's represented by a Democrat and three majority-white districts, each now represented by a Republican.
Redistricting moved into federal court after state legislators failed to agree on a new congressional map.
District lines are updated each decade to reflect population changes revealed by the Census. The majority-black 2nd District lost population between 2000 and 2010, so it had to expand geographically to take in more people.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said he will not object to the plan. Congressional candidates' qualifying deadline is Jan. 13 for the March 13 primaries.
Hosemann said the judges' plan should not need U.S. Justice Department clearance. The department must approve any changes legislators make to Mississippi election laws to ensure the changes are fair to minorities.
Here are the changes:
n Panola, Yalobusha and Grenada counties were moved from the northern 1st District, represented by freshman Republican Alan Nunnelee, to the Delta's 2nd District, represented by Democrat Bennie Thompson, first elected in 1993.
n Leake County is no longer split between District 2 and the central District 3. It will be entirely in 2.
n Winston and Webster counties are no longer split between 1 and 3. They'll each be entirely in 1.
n Oktibbeha County will be newly split between 1 and 3. It has been entirely in 3, represented by Republican Gregg Harper, first elected in 2008.
n Marion and Jones counties will no longer be split between 3 and the southern District 4. They'll each be entirely in 4, a seat held by freshman Republican Steven Palazzo.
n Clarke County will be newly split between 3 and 4. It has been entirely in 4.
One point of contention had been Adams County, one of the state's southernmost counties along the Mississippi River. The judges' plan keeps Adams County in District 3. Thompson had objected to Republican proposals to move Adams into his district, which would have elongated the district that's already about 200 miles, north to south.
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