Wednesday, September 30, 2009



A few days ago, I posted an article which reminded us that new population figures will probably be released by the U.S. Census Bureau in February, 2011. This new data will be used by state legislatures to create 435 new congressional districts and new legislative districts in every state legislature across America as well.

As I stated in my earlier post, this redistricting or “reapportionment” process takes place every ten years and must be based upon the “one man, one vote” doctrine espoused by the United States Supreme Court in BAKER V. CARR, the landmark decision rendered in 1962. This case ruled that each congressional district in each state must be roughly equal in population.

Subsequent rulings have established that state legislative districts in each state must have parity as well. For example, Mississippi has 122 members of its House of Representatives and 52 members of its State Senate. In these two bodies, all existing legislative districts must be recreated, based on population shifts, gains and losses during the past ten years in the existing districts.

The stakes are high as we approach the 2011 redistricting process, not just in Mississippi, but across the nation. The new congressional districts, to be created after the 2011 census data is made public, could easily determine whether the Republicans can make the necessary gains to weaken the power of the Congressional Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And, since the state legislatures in all fifty states will draw the new congressional districts, legislative redistricting will have a tremendous impact on future congressional elections as well. Legislative redistricting will also have a huge impact on state elections and will help determine which of the two political parties will maintain dominance in each state legislature for the next ten years.

In most states, legislative elections will not take place until 2012, well after the 2011 census data comes in. This lapse of time should give the legislative leadership of both political parties in most states a chance to reach some reasonable agreement as they work to recreate legislative districts based on one-man, one-vote guidelines. However, three states ( including Mississippi ) will have their legislative elections in 2011, and each legislator who runs for re-election in those states will likely make his/her intentions known before the new census data is released. Therefore, Mississippi Legislators, for example, will be trying to redraw legislative districts while they are running for re-election and will surely be trying to protect themselves and their personal election prospects when they vote on reapportionment. In such a volatile situation, political survival will be their main focus, as opposed to protecting regional and county boundaries in their districts. Moreover, the Democrats will be trying to recreate districts that will ensure that they maintain their dominance in the Mississippi House of Representatives, and the Republicans will surely be doing the same thing in the more Republican-friendly State Senate.

If the House and Senate legislative members fail to reach an agreement on redistricting in both houses, the courts will surely be asked to step in and reapportion the legislature. A lengthy court battle over reapportionment would be very expensive and could take years to complete.

Deadlock in the Mississippi Legislature over reapportionment has happened before, and the prospect that it could happen again is real. Such a result would not be in the best interests of the State or its people. More about that later in my next post: REDISTRICTING – PART III.

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