JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Republican-controlled Mississippi House on Thursday approved a plan to redraw the state’s four congressional districts.
The 76-42 vote was mostly along party lines, with Republicans and one independent in favor and Democrats and one independent opposed. The Republican-controlled Senate will also have to approve a plan, and no date has been set for that vote.
The proposal was unveiled last month. It expands the territory of the state’s only majority-Black U.S. House district because the 2020 Census showed the district — the 2nd — lost population during the previous decade.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson has held the 2nd District seat since wining a 1993 special election. The district stretches through the Delta and into the city of Jackson.
Thompson said he wanted to expand the district but still keep it relatively compact by taking in more of the densely populated Jackson metro area. That proposal is also favored by the state NAACP. Instead, the plan approved Thursday moves four sparsely populated southwestern counties — Franklin, Adams, Wilkinson and Amite — into the 2nd District from the 3rd.
The 3rd District stretches diagonally across the central part of the state. The seat is held by Republican Rep. Michael Guest, first elected in 2018.
Republican Rep. Trent Kelly has held the 1st District seat in northern Mississippi since winning a 2015 special election. Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo was first elected to the 4th District seat in the south in 2010.
Legislators said the goal is for each of the four congressional districts to have about 740,020 residents.
Officials are supposed to draw districts that are compact and contiguous and that maintain communities of interest. Contiguous means the districts contain areas that are connected — and, ideally, the districts are not in odd shapes.
Democratic Rep. Robert Johnson of Natchez on Thursday offered the NAACP plan as an alternative to the one proposed by the Republican-led redistricting committee. Johnson argued the plan from the redistricting committee makes the 2nd District take in 40% of the geographical area of the state.
“That cannot be considered compact,” Johnson said.
“I would not agree,” responded House Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White, a Republican from West.
The House rejected the plan offered by Johnson before approving the one from the committee.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said he likes the proposed new congressional districts. Candidates face a March 1 qualifying deadline to run for the four seats.
Even if the proposed plan is approved, the NAACP or other opponents could ask a federal court to consider whether the new districts dilute the influence of Black voters.