DeSoto to benefit from new districts -- Redrawing of legislative areas to add 1 new Senate seat, 2 House regions to county

Commercial Appeal, The (Memphis, TN) - Sunday, April 8, 2012
Author: Phil West Special to DeSoto Appeal

JACKSON - For the first time in a long time, Mississippi legislators are expected to redraw their districts this month without major controversy, and local legislators believe DeSoto County should reap great benefits from the process. 

DeSoto County will add one new Senate seat and two House districts once the redistricting process is completed. 

That means that six representatives and three senators will represent DeSoto County interests once the Justice Department approves the plan and a new election is held. 

"DeSoto County has earned the respect of many, many elected officials both at the national level and the state level," said Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Olive Branch. 

"This expansion of legislators through the redistricting process is only going to increase our influence for our county to meet the needs of our county." 

Flowers heads the Senate's two committees, Legislative Reapportionment and Congressional Redistricting, that are shuffling legislative districts to meet the population changes between 2000 and 2010. 

Every state is required to redraw its legislative and congressional districts every 10 years after the census it taken. 

The new map of legislative districts will change dramatically as the Delta and some of the state's poorer districts lose population to suburban areas and the Gulf Coast. 

Flowers said that, unlike last year, legislative adoption of the new districts should go smoothly. 

With a Democratic majority in the House and Republicans in control of the Senate, the process bogged down when senators decided to adopt not only their districts but new House districts as well. 

The issue went to federal court, which ruled that the legislature need not adopt new state legislative lines before 2012. 

In previous years, each house would develop a new map of districts and the other chamber would approve it. 

Ironically, with Republicans in control of both houses and the governor's office, legislative leaders have decided to return to the old ways: the Senate will approve changes to its districts, the House will make its changes, and each chamber will approve the other's new map. 

"We're on course to have a very peaceful swap," Flowers said. "We don't anticipate any problems whatsoever." 

Flowers predicted the Legislature will adopt the new redistricting proposal sometime this month. 

Any changes to Mississippi laws on voting must be approved by the Justice Department because of the state's history of voting rights violations. 

"There may be a court challenge," Flowers said. "In my opinion, it won't have any impact on whether we'll run again in 2013 or 2015. The Senate and House leadership believe we won't run again until 2015. 

"So this third (Senate) seat for DeSoto County won't go into effect until 2015."