The Fight for Fair Maps is Not Over

In Mississippi, the fight for fair maps is not over. Despite the adoption of new legislative district boundaries, several civil rights organizations and individual voters have challenged the maps for unlawfully diluting the voting strength of Black Mississippians.

In the spring of 2022, the Mississippi Legislature adopted new legislative district boundaries that established voting districts for State Senators and the House of Representatives.

Mississippi’s constitution requires the legislature to enact new district lines every 10 years, following the decennial United States Census.

Last November, Mississippi voters elected legislators based on those 2022 districts. Thanks to those new district lines, those elections played out exactly as lawmakers intended.

Very few incumbents, Black or White, faced general election challenges. Their races were decided well before election day.

Yet at the same time, Black voting power was diluted because the legislative maps were crafted to vastly underrepresent Mississippi’s Black population.

While that election is over, the fight for fair maps is not. 

In 2022, several civil rights organizations and individual voters challenged Mississippi’s new state legislative district maps for unlawfully diluting the voting strength of Black Mississippians.

Specifically, the lawsuit charges that the 2022 maps deny Black residents in areas throughout Mississippi an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It also charges that the state gerrymandered certain district lines by improperly using voters’ race, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

We, at the ACLU of Mississippi, the national ACLU, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mississippi Center for Justice; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and civil rights attorney Carroll Rhodes are representing the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP and voters from across the state in the federal lawsuit. The trial is set for February 26th.

To be clear, we are not asking the Court to throw out all 174 legislative districts. We are only challenging the most egregious racial gerrymanders and the most dilutive lines in certain parts of the state.

The current maps favor white voters and harm communities of color. Our democracy can only work when all voices can be heard and all votes count equally.

The impacts of redistricting are far reaching for the success or failure of other important policy issues in the state.  Highly gerrymandered legislative districts allow legislators to ignore the wants and needs of more diverse communities.  Often times, issues that impact wide swaths of the state such as health care, voting rights, or education equity get dismissed out of hand with little to no debate because of the lack of accountability to voters. 

Fair districts mean that elections results are based on the ideas and convictions of candidates. Gerrymandered districts mean that elections are an afterthought and incumbents choose their voters as opposed to voters choosing a candidate.

One day, Mississippians will have a legislature that prioritizes their needs and follows the law. That only happens when voters choose their legislators, not when legislators choose their voters.