Veteran civil rights attorney Carroll Rhodes of Hazlehurst said Tuesday that talks are ongoing over whether to file a lawsuit challenging the 174 state legislative districts for diluting the voting strength of Mississippi’s minority population.
Rhodes, who has been involved for decades in efforts to ensure Black voters have opportunities to elect candidates of their choice, said the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union and others are still debating whether to challenge the redistricting plan approved by the Legislature during the 2022 session as unconstitutional.
“There are additional districts to be created for Black voters to elect candidates of their choice,” Rhodes said Tuesday during a virtual media presentation by multiple attorneys involved in redistricting litigation throughout the country.
During the 2022 session, the Mississippi Legislature enacted a “status quo” redistricting plan, Rhodes pointed out. Under the plan, 42 of the state’s 122 House districts are majority African American, while 15 of the 52 Senate districts have majority Black populations.
The redistricting plan was approved even though based on the 2020 U.S. Census data the state’s non-white population grew during the last 10 years while the state’s white population decreased significantly.
Based on the 2020 Census, Mississippi’s white population decreased 95,791 people the past 10 years to 1,658,893. During the same time period, the Black population declined just 13,940 to 1,084,481. Other minority groups experienced slight upticks, though still making up a much smaller percentage of the state’s overall population when compared to the white and African American population.
The percentage of Mississippians identifying as other than solely white or African American was 3.85% in 2010, and now stands at 7.36%, according to Census data.
Under the plan approved by the Legislature and facing a possible federal lawsuit, 29% of the Senate districts are majority African American while 34% of the House districts are. Based on the 2020 Census, the state’s African American or partially African American population is 38%, while the white population is 59%.
During the media presentation, Rhodes said the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the redistricting plan approved by the Legislature for the four U.S. House districts is ongoing. No one is certain whether the three judge federal panel that is hearing the congressional lawsuit will rule before the 2022 election. The party primary election for the House seats is June 7. The general election is slated for November.
Rhodes, who is representing the NAACP in the congressional U.S. House redistricting lawsuit, said there is more time to decide whether to challenge the newly drawn state legislative districts since those elections will not occur until 2023.