Redistricting Plan

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 11, 2011

Delta district will absorb portion of county if approved

By Billy Davis

A proposed redistricting plan  approved by the Mississippi House of Representatives would move southwest Panola County, and a portion of Batesville, into House District 26.

The redistricting plan, which passed the state House last week, would drop District 9 in northwest Panola County and add District 26 to the south.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

House District 9, currently held by state Rep. Clara Burnett, now includes portions of five counties: Panola, Coahoma, Quitman, Tunica and Tate.

State Rep. Chuck Espy, a Democrat from Clarksdale, currently occupies the District 26 seat, which includes Coahoma and Quitman counties.

Two other House districts, Districts 10 and 11, would continue to cover approximately two-thirds of Panola County under the current House version.

“That was the first volley of this thing. It’s not over yet,” District 10 state Rep. Warner McBride said Thursday of the House plan.  

McBride, who voted for the new boundary lines, went on to explain that the House plan was killed earlier this week in the state Senate.

Two competing Senate plans were creating a stir Thursday morning, when state senators weighed plans from Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and a proposal from a bi-partisan redistricting committee.

McBride reported late Thursday that the committee proposal had passed the Senate and was now headed to the House.

If the House and Senate fail to compromise on redistricting plans, Mississippi’s house and senate boundaries could go before a panel of federal judges that would decide them. That has happened before, in 1991, when legislators were unable to agree on a plan. 

A time factor is also involved in the current political battle: the U.S. Justice Department can take up to 60 days to approve a redistricting plan and legislators are inching toward a June 1 qualifying deadline.

“What’s going on now is a partisan battle. It’s about power and leadership,” said McBride, a Democrat.

McBride, pressed to say who is to blame for the rancor in Jackson, said “both sides of the aisle.”

“We’ve got closer numbers than we’ve ever had before,” he said, further explaining that 68 Democrats and 53 Republicans currently sit in the House of Representatives.    

The House redistricting plan passed March 4 with a 65-56 vote, mostly along partisan lines, though four Republicans supported it and seven Democrats opposed it.

Under the House plan, District 26 would absorb:

•Panola County’s Enon and Tocowa voting precincts

•A portion of the Courtland precinct

•The Cliff Finch building precinct known as Batesville No. 3.

The Courtland precinct is currently split between District 10 and District 11, according to McBride.

The continuous population loss in the Mississippi Delta means District 26 and other Delta districts must keep increasing their boundary lines to find people. That problem mirrors Panola County’s own District 2, which occupies a great swath of western Panola County.

In Panola County, the proposed boundary lines for District 26 include Highway 6 to the north, a portion of the Yocona River to the south, and parts of Batesville to the east.

In Batesville, the enlarged Delta district would also follow Highway 6 as a boundary line, taking in homes in the Perkins Lane area as well some portion of Dogwood Hills in the east.  
South of Batesville, the new District 26 boundary would keep the Pope municipality in District 10, and put Courtland in District 26, with some creative drawing that extends District 26 east to Interstate 55, south of Courtland and north of Pope.