Follows: Mississippi High Court Districts Water Down Black Vote | Government and politics
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS – Associated Press
JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Mississippi must update its state Supreme Court districts to ensure black voters have the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice in a state with a history of polarized voting on racially, the black plaintiffs said in a lawsuit filed Monday.
Mississippi’s three Supreme Court districts are all white majority, and they were last updated in 1987 over the objection of black lawmakers, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges the districts violate the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution by diluting black voting strength.
Four black justices have served on the Mississippi Supreme Court — never more than one at a time.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Mississippi, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the New York law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett filed a lawsuit in federal court in Greenville on behalf of four black residents of the Mississippi.
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Ty Pinkins of Vicksburg, one of the plaintiffs, is an attorney who works in the majority black Mississippi Delta. He said it was important that his relatives and neighbors felt they were fairly represented at all levels of government, including in the judiciary.
“I want to make sure that those family members can see each other on the court, those neighbors that I grew up with, they can see each other in the Supreme Court – they can see people who look like them and they can be sure than the justice system if it’s fair to them,” Pinkins said.
Mississippi lawmakers passed plans this year to update the state’s congressional and legislative district boundaries to account for demographic changes revealed by the 2020 census.
The lawsuit asks a federal judge to order an update of the Supreme Court districts, which relate to the northern, central and southern parts of the state.
The voting-age black population in the Central District is now around 49%, which is the highest of any of the three districts, according to the suit. A black candidate lost to a white candidate in the central constituency in 2012 and 2020.
“Now is the time for these districts to change,” Ari Savitzky, an attorney for the ACLU Foundation, said Monday at a news conference in Jackson.
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican, said in response to questions later Monday that he had not read the lawsuit and could not discuss whether lawmakers would consider updating the limits of the Supreme Court districts.
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