Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sid Salter: Legislative redistricting remains an intensely political, intensely partisan exercise

 With Census data compiled, state legislatures across the country are engaged in the intensely political, intensely partisan exercise of legislative redistricting for both congressional districts and state legislative districts.

There are few exercises in state government more important and more impactful than the redistricting process. It can have partisan impacts that last for a decade. Parties in power see their clear opportunity to perpetuate their majorities while powers out of power see their opportunities to challenge.

The sad commentary is that far too many Mississippians can’t tell you which congressional district they live in or the same information on state legislative districts. And Mississippi is far from an outlier on those facts – if anything rural states have greater basic political engagement.

In Mississippi, the state’s four congressional and 174 state legislative district boundaries are drawn by the Mississippi Legislature. Congressional district lines are adopted as regular legislation and are subject to gubernatorial veto. State legislative district lines are adopted as a joint resolution and are therefore not subject to gubernatorial veto.

If lawmakers cannot agree on a state legislative redistricting plan, a five-member commission comprised of the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, the attorney general, the secretary of state, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate president pro tempore will formulate the plan. 

In framing the perimeters of legislative redistricting, it’s best to start with the building blocks. Off the top, the U.S. Justice Department’s Voting Rights Division is part of the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat. The Supreme Court, technically non-partisan, is perceived to skew conservative which is generally advantageous to Republicans.

In terms of state legislative redistricting, the Department of Justice will review the work of the Mississippi Standing Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting and further that of the overall Mississippi Legislature. The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of the rulings of the DOJ and the lower courts on litigation involving conflicts between states and the DOJ.  

But that’s the national perspective. Mississippi has a Republican super majority in both the Mississippi House of Representatives and in the Mississippi State Senate. Mississippi’s State Supreme Court is also technically non-partisan but is perceived to skew conservative to the benefit of Republicans.

Initial committee hearings have been held around the state. The “benchmark demographics” for the state House and Senate are also important to understanding the process. The Census identified Mississippi’s population at 2,961,279. In the Mississippi House, there are 122 districts – which evenly divided would make the “ideal district size” 24,273 citizens.

In the Mississippi Senate, there are 52 districts – which evenly divided would make the “ideal district size” 56,948 citizens. While that sounds simple and straightforward, it really isn’t.

The Census revealed deviations in the ideal district size in the Senate of as many as 13,226 (+23.22 percent) additional citizens and as few as -10,244 (-17.99 percent) citizens.

In the Mississippi House, the Census revealed deviations in the ideal district size of as many as 11,945 (+49.21 percent) additional citizens and as few as -5,296(-21.82 percent) citizens.

So redistricting is then simply a matter of making the “ideal district size” math work, right? As Lee Corso says on TV: “Not so fast, my friend.”

The National Conference of States Legislatures reports that all states must comply with these guidelines: “All states must comply with the federal constitutional requirements related to population and anti-discrimination. For state legislative districts, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that districts be substantially equal. 

Some say that 10 percent deviation in population from one district to the next is a safe standard.

“However, that has not proven to be a guaranteed protection from court scrutiny or revision.

In addition to population equality, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits plans that intentionally or inadvertently discriminate on the basis of race, which could dilute the minority vote.”

Other basic redistricting guidelines in Mississippi are in the areas of compactness of the district, contiguity of the district (are all parts connected?), and preservation of counties and other political subdivisions and communities of interest. Less codified but intensely influential is the notion of creating districts that don’t “pair” incumbents – meaning to draw a district that pits two legislators against each other.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

Redistricting is one of the biggest problems in our system of government. The party in power should not be changed with this important job. It would be better if a truly independent group was responsible. I’m not sure who is “truly independent “ any. Maybe someone from the Judicial branch or even a panel from another state. Safe Districts allow incumbents to stake out extreme positions and reduce the lily of any compromise…… jeff

Anonymous said...

Sid has a firm grasp on the obvious.

Non-partisan/independent don't exist.

Anonymous said...

Just another government sh!tshow fail and the go to distraction when there is a slow news day.

Anonymous said...

First, get rid of the federal nonsense.

Second, have this done as an in-school project for a bunch of elementary students.

Anonymous said...

I'm with 10:26. Give some 1st graders some maps and crayons. That's as good as anything anyone else will do. Much quicker, too.

Anonymous said...

I expect Mississippi will lose another Congressional seat, if not after the 2030 census, certainly by 2040, since the population is shrinking. I don't really see Mississippi ever be a booming state.

Anonymous said...

3:20 - It takes seven Southern States to equal the California electoral college delegation. That's what you ought to ponder, instead of the obvious.

Anonymous said...

7:02 Dang... that's profound... and sad.

Anonymous said...

A real issue is that several justices of MSSC and the legislature skew as idiots with unintelligible viewpoints, not that they are "Republicans."

The real problem is not partisanship because that has been around since well before even "1776," but the nonsense that has swamped many states in the last 20 years. It doesn't matter if it is "right" or "left," it's complete pandering bullshit. Statecraft is best conducted by statespeople. When the choices are Trump or Biden, Pelosi or McConnell, there is a problem. And when the states' governments cleave to one or the other, ala Tate and Trump, it does not sit well with the vast majority of "the middle" of the wide spectrum of socioeconomic or general political leaning.

That vast majority doesn't want a joint something to be jailed over, nor to ban all abortions, nor to pay lazy people not to work, nor to take or refuse all of those seeking to come to the US. But they don't want to allow any and all to flout all immigration law, have pot-smoking (or intoxicated) people handling potentially hazardous duties, abortions used as mere "oops, I was horny" birth control and paid for with tax dollars, etc.

That majority in the middle do not go to the Met Gala in a skin-tight designer dress with "Tax the Rich" painted on it while bitching about "social justice" and they are offending when their reps - their employees - do such as that. They do not want their Governor making an ass of him- or herself on national TV (Tate, DeSantis, Cuomo, pick'em) with nonsensical horseshit, whatever that Governor's ill-considered and purely self-serving political brown-nosing.

They want a simple thing made incomprehensible by the nonsense: a functional government acting like a government...for the people, by the people, and of the people. And by "the people" they instinctively mean those who are or are trying to be productive contributors to society, not those who would take, not add, and demand more. Things like race, religion, orientation, etc. aren't an issue. Rights, civil or otherwise, aren't the issue, responsibilities are. Anyone who lives up to their responsibilities as best as they can will be helped if and when the need arises.

I'll climb down from my soapbox. And hope, at least a little.

Anonymous said...

This reads like a copy and paste from Wikipedia. Sid gets paid for this drivel?

Anonymous said...

What do the people in Oktibbeha County have in common with the folks in Wilkerson County other than the fact that they are in the 3rd Congressional District?

Not too long ago, the state was divided into more-or-less parallel rectangular Congressional districts.

But the complaint was that there were NO black Representatives from Mississippi because no district had a majority of black voters. So they redistricted and carved out the Delta to have something like a 60% black population. It didn't work: Web Franklin was elected.

So they moved the line to include more blacks and Mike Espy was elected and a black has been elected ever since.

If you think that the white folks (candidates and voters) in Districts 1, 3, and 4 don't like it, you'd be mistaken.

The current Congressional districting is classic gerrymandering:

Anonymous said...

^ Oops. I meant "Wilkinson" County; not "Wilkerson" County.

Anonymous said...

7:02 pm on Sept 22

You might want to ponder that CA supports those Southern States with tax revenues( money to have bridges and roads and enough law enforcement among other things).

And, there are more American citizens living in that State.

As one commenter said, " Sid states the obvious". That's because he can't rely ,even then, on some grasping the obvious.

Rural voters are represented sufficiently to protect their interests and to get benefits from the federal government, but not so they can dictate to the other States. But, Lord knows we are now being cursed with "flat earth " voters trying to turn us into a one religion, one strong man, one party system. That rural areas and blue collar workers will be worse off ( see other countries ,even Russia and China, run that way ) hasn't occurred to you.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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