State Redistriction

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2011

Redistricting may move Panola to 2nd

By Billy Davis
1st District Congressman Alan Nunnelee acknowledged this week he expects to lose at least part of Panola County to Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District to balance population numbers.

Mississippi’s congressional delegation has been wrangling for some time over new boundary lines following the 2010 Census and now Nunnelee is expected to cede territory to the 2nd District according to political observers.

The northern and western portions of Panola County were once included in the 2nd District but the entire county went back to the 1st District following the 2000 Census.

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The 1st District in North Mississippi has grown approximately 15 percent since 2000 while the 2nd District in the Delta continues to bleed population.

“The 2010 Census showed that the First District of Mississippi has some of the fastest growing communities in our state,” Nunnelee said in a statement to The Panolian.
“While I would prefer to keep the district as is, I recognize that it would be impossible given our growth,” he said.

Mississippi’s state legislature is tasked with redrawing congressional lines, though state senators and representatives were unable to agree on a plan during their most recent session in Jackson.

Citing the stalemate, the Mississippi Republican Party is asking federal judges to redraw the lines before the 2012 congressional elections.

A panel of three judges approved Mississippi’s boundary lines in 2002 following the 2000 Census, when state legislators couldn’t agree on a plan. The state lost one congressional seat during that process.

Mississippi’s population of 2.9 million should have 741,824 people in each congressional district.
The court filing by the Republican Party states the 1st District population is 6.2 percent above that figure while the 2nd District is 9.9 percent below the ideal number, according to the Associated Press.  

Mississippi’s 2nd District currently stretches across much of Western Mississippi, from Tunica to Jefferson counties. The district is approximately 285 miles long and is one of the largest in the country according to Thompson’s congressional Web site.

The continuing population shrinkage in the poverty-stricken Delta means those drawing congressional lines must push beyond the current 2nd District to find people. Any expansion of the district must include eligible black voters to pass the scrutiny of the U.S. Justice Department.  

Thompson, a liberal Democrat, is the only black member of Mississippi’s U.S. House delegation. He is also the most senior, now approaching 20 years in the U.S. Congress.

Nunnelee is a freshman Republican who defeated incumbent Travis Childers last year to win the 1st District seat.

Nunnelee was in Batesville Monday evening for a town hall meeting, where redistricting was not mentioned.

A spokesman for Nunnelee said the congressman expects to lose part of the 1st District but, like everyone else, is unsure what the federal judges will decide.

“The Congressman doesn’t know how they will draw the new lines.  At this point, all he knows is he is going to lose population,” said Nunnelee spokesman Alexander Finestone.