Mississippi’s state legislature draws and adopts congressional and state legislative district maps, which are subject to gubernatorial veto. State legislative maps are adopted by resolution and do not require the governor’s signature.
Mississippi’s state legislature, with supermajority Republican control, adopted congressional maps that split the state capitol, Jackson, into two districts, over the protests of the NAACP, Mississippi’s sole Black and Democratic congressional member and several Black state legislators. Jackson was split along partisan and racial lines. Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP v. State Board of Election Commissioners is an ongoing case challenging MS’s legislative maps as racially discriminatory.
Community of Interest Story
Local organizing and mapping efforts were the path to organizing wins in Mississippi. Gulfport saw one of these wins at the City Council level. The City Council had seven seats with two majority-minority seats. Because of community input, they ended up drawing a third seat that gave Black and Latinx voters the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. Without this input, long-term relationships, and organizing and mapping expertise provided by groups organizing in Mississippi, Black and Latinx residents of Gulfport would not have won more representation on the City Council.
Overall State Grade: D-
Lack of public engagement: One advocate noted that the state legislature held public hearings only before census data was released. The decision-making meetings were performative – three meetings that were 15 minutes each: one to form the map, one to adopt redistricting criteria, and one to adopt the map for the legislature.
Lack of transparency: Advocates described the legislative committee in charge of redistricting as extremely non-transparent in their decision-making. The maps were drawn behind closed doors, and the committee never offered draft maps for public comment.
Timeline issues: The legislature revealed proposed draft maps shortly before they voted on them and never allowed the public to comment on draft maps. Some advocates stated that the legislature led people to believe they would not do redistricting until the beginning of 2023, but later “snuck it in at the end of their session,” proposing and approving a plan within a few days with no opportunity for public comment.
Local Grade: C
Advocates as a whole found more success in advocacy at the local level. One advocate stated that certain local jurisdictions provided ample opportunity for public testimony and were responsive to input, while others were terrible. However, advocates generally found it easier to apply pressure and get wins organizing for communities around local level maps.
- Leveraging technology and experts for organizing works: Organizers spoke to the importance of using technology to empower communities to advocate for themselves. As one advocate stated, “When we have a map produced in Maptitude, it levels the playing field – that is the game changer for us.” Empowering community members through training to use Maptitude and other mapping software gives them greater power to influence the process. Access to local experts who know the geography and history of Mississippi would also be extremely helpful.
- Long-term relationships and networks on the ground were important: Mississippi has a vibrant organizing ecosystem around civic engagement and redistricting, with some organizations such as Southern Echo having over 40 years of experience organizing communities around redistricting. Many successes in organizing directly stemmed from the long-term network, relationships, and history of organizing around redistricting in Mississippi. These relationships were integral to being able to organize effectively around maps. External or national groups need to show deference for state groups and activists. Funders should support local and state organizations earlier, to enable them to organize more effectively.
- There was success at the local level to draw communities of interest (COIs) and minority districts: By focusing on providing local groups with technology and training to advocate for themselves in local map-drawing, groups like Southern Echo were able to help communities win representative maps that protected COI’s and minority districts.
- A fair census and funding from the time of the census is critical: In a state like Mississippi, where 4.1% of the population was undercounted in 2020,45 it is crucial to receive funding for Census outreach to undercounted communities. Having a fair census with accurate counts for Black and Latinx communities sets the stage for fair and equitable redistricting.