May 21, 2013 10:32:36 AM
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court won't order new legislative elections in Mississippi, despite a lawsuit that said current lawmakers were chosen in outdated districts that diluted black voting strength.
The legislative map was supposed to be redrawn in early 2011, using 2010 Census information. The goal was to put roughly the same number of people in each of the 122 House districts and each of the 52 Senate districts, reflecting population changes that occurred during the previous decade. However, the two chambers argued several weeks before ending their 2011 session without adopting new maps.
Current lawmakers were elected in November 2011 in districts that were drawn after the 2000 Census, and Republicans won control of both chambers for the four-year term.
In a federal lawsuit filed in October 2012, the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People asked for results of the November 2011 legislative elections to be set aside and for special elections to be held under a redistricting plan that the NAACP wanted federal judges to draw. The group said that using the old maps violated the one-person, one-vote principle by diluting African-American voting strength.
Courts affirmed a ruling that allowed state lawmakers to run in their old districts in 2011.
Supreme Court justices, without comment Monday, upheld the lower court ruling.
"The ruling by the Supreme Court guarantees our legislators will not have to run in special elections before the next regular election in 2015. This is a significant savings of taxpayer dollars. The constitution and the state of Mississippi had a good day," Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said Monday in a statement.
Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement Monday that "Supreme Court brings closure to the redistricting battle brought on by the 2010 Census."
"We passed a plan on a bipartisan vote, and today's final ruling validates the hard work of our legislators," Reeves said.
Carroll Rhodes, the attorney representing the NAACP in the case, did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, said Monday in a statement that he's glad state will not hold costly special elections.
"In addition, the new apportionment plans that the Legislature enacted during the 2012 session have already been approved by the Department of Justice and will be effective for the 2015 election cycle," Bryant said.
The Supreme Court also denied Monday the NAACP's challenge to how lawmakers redrew districts in 2012.
In 2012, the House and Senate approved updated district lines to account for changes revealed by the 2010 Census, including growth in DeSoto County, just south of Memphis, Tenn. In September 2012, the U.S. Justice Department approved those maps but said people or groups could still challenge the redrawn lines in court.
In October 2012, the NAACP asked a panel of three federal judges to redraw the districts and order a new round of elections; the House and Senate redistricting committees opposed the lawsuit.
In December 2012, the NAACP's request was denied by Judge E. Grady Jolly of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judges Tom S. Lee and Louis Guirola Jr.