Article Comment 

Scott Colom: Redistricting questions still unanswered

 

Scott Colom

 

After months of endless debate, newspaper stories, partisan bickering and lawsuits, the United States District Courts were suppose to resolve the redistricting battle for the 2011 elections. Unfortunately, after the recent judges'' decision, important questions remain.  

 

The redistricting battle started over a disagreement between the speaker of the Mississippi House and the current Lt. Governor. Supposedly, in the past, there was a "gentleman''s agreement" between the House and the Senate that allowed each separate chamber to draw their own election lines during redistricting. This year, the Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant decided he would not accept the House''s redistricting plan without the Senate''s approval. And when the House Democratic majority passed a bill with their new lines, Lt. Governor Bryant claimed the lines gerrymandered away any chance for the Republicans to win enough seats to select a Speaker of the House of their choosing for the next 10 years.  

 

Upset at the Lt. Governor''s rejection of the lines passed in the House, which he felt broke the previous "gentleman''s agreement," the Speaker of the House, Billy McCoy, refused to compromise. His position was that the House lines had been drawn and Lt. Governor Bryant should have nothing to do with it. This left redistricting at a major em-pass.  

 

In Mississippi, because of the Voting Rights Act, changes in election laws, including redistricting, must be approved by the United States Department of Justice. The Department of Justice must approve new election lines prior to the qualifying deadline for an election. In the past, disputes over the amount of majority-minority districts resulted in the federal courts drawing the lines and legislative elections being held in back to back years. Now, the inability of the House and Senate to agree on new house lines created the possibility that new lines would not be drawn and approved by the DOJ before the qualifying deadline and, again, legislative elections would have to be held in consecutive years.  

 

The situation became more tenuous when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a lawsuit claiming that the legislators could not run in the current election lines without violating the one man, one vote principle. This principle requires each legislative district have as close to the same amount of voters in it as possible to ensure voters have equal influence. The NAACP argued that the population had shifted and changed significantly in Mississippi over the past 10 years; thus running in the current election based on past legislative districting violates would violate the one man, one vote principle.  

 

Most observers thought this lawsuit would resolve the conflict. The Speaker and the NAACP argued the courts should allow the House members to run in the lines passed in the House. The Lt. Governor and other Republicans argued the court should draw new lines. Then, suddenly, Delbert Hosemann, the Republican Secretary of State, pointed out that the state constitution required the lines be drawn by 2012, which meant that the election could be held in 2011 based on the past lines and then the new legislature could pass news in the 2012 session. Two days ago, the federal panel issued an order accepting the Secretary of State''s opinion. The elections are to be held based on the current lines and must be drawn by the 2012 legislature. 

 

This opinion still leaves questions unanswered, though. The opinion does not explicitly address whether there will have to be a second election after the 2012 legislature or the courts draw new lines. Both options have downsides. On one hand, if the legislators are required to run again in 2012, the state will have to pay for consecutive elections, wasting thousands of tax dollars. On the other hand, if the legislatures are allowed to serve until 2015, before scheduled new elections, voters would have four years of representation that clearly violates the one man, one vote principle.  

 

Scott Colom is a local attorney. His e-mail address is colomsw@gmail.com.

 

Scott Colom is a local attorney.

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment walter commented at 5/18/2011 4:02:00 PM:

That Federal law trumps the state (Mississippi Constitution) law referenced by the Secretary of State, especially when it comes to altering the voting rights and benefits of the state's "minority population, has already been well-established by the Highest Court. Thus, it is ludicrous that any elected-official or judge would suggest delaying the vote. It ould have the effect of denying equal respresentation for African Americans during a very critical period in the history of the state and the nation!

If the Republican controlled leguslature will not draw the districts to reflect the change that has occurred over the last decade, then, the federal court must be requested to step-in and do so. It is just for this occasion that the Voting Rights Act as enacted. We knew that in time, Mississippi reactionary folks would try, again and again, to rip away our hard-won rights: disproportionate arrests and sentences; poor funding for education; and, last hired and first fired to drive blacks out of state.

This time the answer should be a resounding NO! We will not remain silent and allow you to strip away our rights! Redraw the district and redraw then timely and fairly.

 

Article Comment zenreaper commented at 5/18/2011 4:34:00 PM:

Interesting opinion Walter. Could you point out the part of the article that addressed race? I saw it as a Democrat/Republican thing. I saw no mention of race.

 

Article Comment walter commented at 5/18/2011 6:38:00 PM:

It is obvious to me now that we come from vastly different backgrounds. Until today, I merely presumed that to be the case. I know now, for a fact, that we do!

THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT HAD NOTHING TO DO, SPECIFICALLY WITH WHETHER OR NOT ONE WAS OR WASN'T A DEMOCRAT OR A REPUBLICAN! IT WAS ABOUT THE RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF BLACK PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY IN MISSISSIPPI, TO EXERCISE THE PRIVILEGES OF CITIZENSHIP.

UNLESS YOU ARE A CHILD OR SEVERELY MENTALLY CHALLENGED AND DESIRE ENLIGHTENMENT FROM ME, ZEN, DIRECT YOUR COMMENTS ELSWWHERE, PLEASE! I HAVE NO PATIENCE FOR THE INTENTIONALLY IGNORANT OR RACISTS OF ANY HUE!

 

Article Comment zenreaper commented at 5/18/2011 6:53:00 PM:

"THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT HAD NOTHING TO DO, SPECIFICALLY WITH WHETHER OR NOT ONE WAS OR WASN'T A DEMOCRAT OR A REPUBLICAN! IT WAS ABOUT THE RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF BLACK PEOPLE, PARTICULARLY IN MISSISSIPPI, TO EXERCISE THE PRIVILEGES OF CITIZENSHIP."

And the ARTICLE had NOTHING to do with RACE< it is talking about the FIGHT between the Democrats and the Republicans on the current re-districting plan.

"UNLESS YOU ARE A CHILD OR SEVERELY MENTALLY CHALLENGED AND DESIRE ENLIGHTENMENT FROM ME, ZEN, DIRECT YOUR COMMENTS ELSWWHERE, PLEASE! I HAVE NO PATIENCE FOR THE INTENTIONALLY IGNORANT OR RACISTS OF ANY HUE!"

Ah, the "racist" label. Makes it easier to ignore my valid comments, doesn't it? Well, at least you are honest enough to admit that only children or those with a learning disability could BE enlightened by you.

Here is the FACTS. The article makes NO mention of race. The ONLY mention of race is from YOU. And if you are going to call someone a racist, you should back it up. ASKING you where you GOT race FROM CANNOT be "racist", as it is merel;y a QUESTION, not a STATEMENT.

 

Article Comment walter commented at 5/20/2011 4:10:00 PM:

Obama, a President of African (Black) descent, is a Democrat. He won a majority of the states, all of which, had much fewer African Americans than my beloved state of Mississippi. Interestingly enough, he did not even come close to carrying Mississippi, which, incidentally, has been dominated by the Republicans for decades, especially in the U.S. Senate.

If the topic is about the Voting Rights Act as far as it pertaining to Mississippi, you bet, based upon the state's sordid past, it is definitely about race! Only the most ignrant or niave would think thatit is not or the biggest liar in the world, would insist that it is not! I, as much as anyone, pray for the day when Race doesn't Matter. Until that day, I will continue to deal with reality and encourage all that I meet to do likewise.

I will be patient with a chuild and with those who are mentally challenged; but, for an a-sh-l- who attempts to divert attention away from the truth, I have NO PATIENCE! Mississippi will not change, unless we deal with the reality of the race relation in all spheres of life within the state, truthfully, sincerely, boldly, candidly and without fear or seeking pats on the back or head, by going-alone, to--get-along! This is not the time to speak platitudes about how we wish things to be; it is about addressing matters, as they are! If you are a child or simply lacking historical background re The Voting Rights Act, then i will enlighten you. Although I'm not lawyer, I'm more than a little informed of the laws of Mississippi and the United States. And, I have mastered the history of both Mississippi and the U.S. Today, I am at liberty to speak my mind. I do so, without desiring to hurt or offend a soul. But, I will not soften the facts, just to sooth the sensibilities of those who are Preservative Republicans or remnants of the Dixiecrats, thoise who want to preserve God-given and civil righjts for just themselves and their offsprings. If you a Preservative Republicans, then, we, Zen, you and I, have a lot of conversing to do to arrive at anything remotely compatible, when it comes to politics, law and education of the State's citizens and residents: I speak of things as they are; you, on the other hand, live in the world of lies and fantasies...

Again, I'm ptient with children and the mentally challenged and will take the time to elaborate. Are you a child? Are you mentally challenged or simply ignorant of the history of the VRA? I will entertain you. If you just an anonymous racist looking to divert attention, I have no time for you, period.

Deducted reasoning indicate that if 90% of African Americans are Democrats in Mississippi and the other 10% are Republicans and other, then, what is happening in Mississippi with the Secretary of State tactic and the Judge's ruling on the Secretary's legal manuever, is blantantly racist and violative of the VRA! Those who sacrificed to get the VRA passed expected challenges. What we didn't know is what would Blacks and decent whites would do, when facewd with those challenges. I, for one, say it is time to stand-up and be counted and to resist with all our might!!!

 

Article Comment zenreaper commented at 5/22/2011 9:21:00 AM:

"Obama, a President of African (Black) descent, is a Democrat. He won a majority of the states, all of which, had much fewer African Americans than my beloved state of Mississippi. Interestingly enough, he did not even come close to carrying Mississippi, which, incidentally, has been dominated by the Republicans for decades, especially in the U.S. Senate."

Why would you be surprised that a state that is dominated by Republicans would not go to a Democrat?

"If the topic is about the Voting Rights Act as far as it pertaining to Mississippi, you bet, based upon the state's sordid past, it is definitely about race!"

Oh, okay, so the AUTHOR (coincidentally a black man) didn't say it was about race, the ARTICLE didn't mention race, but you have DECIDED it was about race, so that makes it so?

"I, as much as anyone, pray for the day when Race doesn't Matter."

No you don't. You WANT things to be about race, because that is the ONLY defense you have for ANYTHING. This discussion is a perfect example.

"I will be patient with a chuild and with those who are mentally challenged; but, for an a-sh-l- who attempts to divert attention away from the truth, I have NO PATIENCE!"

You begin attacking the person instead of the issue, a sure sign that I am right.

"Mississippi will not change, unless we deal with the reality of the race relation in all spheres of life within the state, truthfully, sincerely, boldly, candidly and without fear or seeking pats on the back or head, by going-alone, to--get-along!"

Race relations will not change until we realize that ALL races have ignorant people in them, black, white, tan, yellow and red. You PREACH against racist WHITE people, yet support the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, etc etc. Until BLACK people are held responsible for THEIR racist organizations, the white people who are preaching hate will ALWAYS have ammo with which to recruit those on the fence.

"If you a Preservative Republicans, then, we, Zen, you and I, have a lot of conversing to do to arrive at anything remotely compatible, when it comes to politics, law and education of the State's citizens and residents: I speak of things as they are; you, on the other hand, live in the world of lies and fantasies..."

As I have have said in the past, I am a Libertarian. I support neither party, although it may surprise you that of the GOP candidates, I like Herman Cain the best. If he gets the nomination, gonna be tough for the Dems to play the race card THIS time.

And the biggest difference between us? I have not resorted to personal attacks and name calling to discredit YOUR posts.

 

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