JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ The NAACP contends blacks are still discriminated against in new legislative districts. It has asked a federal panel to redraw those districts approved by the Justice Department last month and other elections for the Mississippi Legislature in 2013.
“The court should order special elections. However, those elections should not be held under the 2012 plans. Those plans result in discrimination against African-American voters.
The 2012 plans contain fewer black majority districts and black voting age majority districts than the plans offered by plaintiffs as interim plans in 2011. The 2011 plans are evidence that the 2012 plans result in discrimination,'' according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's lawsuit.
The 122 House districts and 52 Senate districts were redrawn by the Legislature this past spring to reflect population shifts after the 2010 Census.
Lawmakers elected in 2011 under the previous boundaries would hold those seats until 2015. The NAACP contended and some state officials agreed that the districts used in 2011 did not reflect shifts shown in the 2010 Census.
“Although the 2012 legislatively enacted Senate and House plans comply with the one-person, one-vote principle of the 14 Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, the 2012 Senate plan dilutes black voting strength and the House plan does as well,'' the NAACP argues.
“Consequently, both plans result in discrimination against African-American voters,'' according to the lawsuit filed Saturday.
Because of Mississippi's history of racial discrimination, the Voting Rights Act requires the state to get federal approval for any election law changes.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement Monday the Senate plan should pass any federal court review.
“The Senate redistricting plan passed by an overwhelming margin, increased the number of majority-minority districts and was swiftly approved by President Obama's Department of Justice last month. Once again, this unusual lawsuit shows the Mississippi NAACP is out of touch, and I am confident the Senate plan will be approved by the federal court,'' Reeves said.
The case is before a three-judge panel of 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.
Several Democrats have said they thought they were treated unfairly in the plans drawn by leaders of the two Republican-controlled chambers.
Republican Rep. Bill Denny of Jackson, who led the House redistricting effort, has said the districts met the required standards: They're compact, they uphold communities with common interests and they don't weaken black voting strength.
Mississippi's population is 37 percent black, and its voting-age population is 35 percent black.
The Republican-controlled Senate approved its map on a 46-5 vote May 2, with one Democrat absent. The map has 15 majority-black Senate districts, or 29 percent.
When federal judges drew the Senate map a decade ago, it had 12 majority-black seats, or 23 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, population changes resulted in one more district becoming majority black, bringing the total to 13 seats, or 25 percent, as legislators embarked on drawing new maps.
In the new motion, the NAACP argues that blacks “suffered irreparable harm in 2011 by being forced to vote in elections where their votes were underrepresented. Plaintiffs not only suffered a debasement of their vote in the 2011 elections, but they continue to suffer a debasement by being represented by persons elected in unconstitutional districts.''
“Federal courts have held that Legislators elected to office in grossly malapportioned unconstitutional districts cannot serve a full four-year term when the plaintiffs requested and were denied pre-election relief,'' according to the lawsuit.