Prof. Justin Levitt's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

Mississippi

State Summary

Mississippi’s congressional lines are drawn by the legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.  The state legislative lines are drawn by the legislature and passed as a joint resolution, which is not subject to gubernatorial veto.  Mississippi will next elect its state legislators in 2023.

In the 2010 cycle, no congressional plan was forthcoming from the legislature, and so the same federal court that had drawn districts in 2001 amended its prior judgment, drawing a new congressional plan on Dec. 30, 2011.    The legislature also did not adopt a plan for state legislative districts before adjourning in 2011, but on May 2, 2012, the state legislature passed state House lines (JR 1 ); on May 3, 2012, it passed state Senate lines (JR 201). Both were precleared on Sept. 14, 2012.  On Feb. 16, 2019, a state Senate district was found to violate the Voting Rights Act; on Mar. 27, 2019, the legislature redrew the district (JR 202) for the coming 2019 elections.

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The Latest Updates

Jun 18, 2020
The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal in Thomas v. Reeves as moot and vacated the opinion below.  The opinion featured a lengthy concurrence and dissent arguing over the invocation of a three-judge federal trial court under 28 USC § 2284.

Institution

Mississippi’s congressional lines are drawn by the legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.

The state legislative lines are drawn by the legislature and passed as a joint resolution, which is not subject to gubernatorial veto. [Miss. Const. art. XIII, § 254]

For both plans, the legislature is assisted by a 20-member joint legislative committee: the chair and vice-chair of the state House and state Senate elections committees; two state Representatives from each of four congressional districts, appointed by the speaker of the House; and two state Senators from each of four congressional districts, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. The members of the committee are listed here.  [Miss. Code §§5-3-915-3-121]

If the legislature fails to pass a state legislative plan, those lines will be drawn by a five-member backup commission, in place since 1977. The commission consists of the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the majority leaders of the House and Senate. [Miss. Const. art. XIII, § 254]

Timing

Mississippi state law does not impose a particular deadline for drawing congressional lines, though candidates must file for congressional primary elections by March 1, 2022. [Miss. Code § 23-15-299]  The legislative session began on Jan. 5, 2021, and is currently scheduled to end on Mar. 15, 2021.

For state legislative plans, the legislature’s initial deadline to draw a map is the end of the regular session in the second year following the census, which is currently scheduled for Apr. 3, 2022. If the legislature fails to pass a plan, it will be called into a 30-day special apportionment session; if that session also ends without a plan, the backup commission will be convened, and must provide a plan within 180 days.  [Miss. Const. art. IV, § 36art. XIII, § 254]  Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by Mar. 1, 2023. [Miss. Code § 23-15-299]

Mississippi expressly permits redrawing state legislative lines at any time mid-decade, before the next Census; there is no similar provision pertaining to congressional lines. [Miss. Const. art. XIII, § 254]

Public input

The legislature has not announced any specific plans for public input this cycle just yet.

Criteria

Like all states, Mississippi must comply with constitutional equal population requirements and must also abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

For Mississippi’s state legislative lines, the state constitution further requires that districts be contiguous. A Mississippi statute also requires that state legislative districts be compact, and cross political boundaries as little as possible; county lines and election district lines are prioritized above other political bounds. The legislature may alter these constraints by statute. [Miss. Const. art. XIII, § 254Miss. Code § 5-3-101]  Floterial (or overlapping) districts may be acceptable under state law. [Connor v. Johnson, 330 F. Supp. 506, 507 (S.D. Miss. 1971)]

2010 cycle

For congressional districts, when no legislative plan seemed likely, the same federal court asked to draw districts in the last cycle amended its prior judgment, drawing new congressional districts for the new cycle on Dec. 30, 2011.  [Smith v. Hosemann, 852 F. Supp. 2d 757 (S.D. Miss. 2011)]

The legislature did not adopt a plan for state legislative districts before adjourning in 2011.  On May 2, 2012, the state legislature passed state House lines (JR 1 ); on May 3, 2012, it passed state Senate lines (JR 201). Both were precleared on Sept. 14, 2012.

Court challenges to the delay in implementing the state legislative map were rejected.  [Miss. State Conference of the NAACP v. Barbour, No. 3:11-cv-00159, 2011 WL 1870222 (S.D. Miss. May 16, 2011), aff’d, 132 S. Ct. 542 (2011)]  Separately, on Feb. 16, 2019, a state Senate district was found to violate the Voting Rights Act; on Mar. 27, 2019, the legislature redrew the district (JR 202) for the coming 2019 elections.  [Thomas v. Bryant, 366 F. Supp. 3d 786 (S.D. Miss. 2019), aff’d, 938 F.3d 134 (5th Cir. 2019), vacated as moot sub nom. Thomas v. Reeves, 961 F.3d 800 (5th Cir. 2000) (en banc)]

2000 cycle

Mississippi’s legislature passed joint resolutions redistricting the state House (JR 1) and state Senate (JR 201), on Mar. 26, 2002, which were precleared on June 17, 2002.  The state legislative plan was later challenged in federal court, and upheld. [Woullard v. Mississippi, No. 3:05-CV-97 (S.D. Miss. 2006)]

The legislature did not, however, reach agreement on a congressional plan, and both federal and state courts attempted to assert jurisdiction. The state court developed a plan, but preclearance was delayed (moreover, the state Supreme Court later determined that state statutes deprive state courts of jurisdiction to draw plans of their own). Due to the delay, the federal court drew congressional districts for use in the 2002 elections.  [Branch v. Clark, No. G-2001-1777 (Miss. Chancery Ct. Dec. 21, 2001); Smith v. Clark, 189 F. Supp. 2d 512 (S.D. Miss. 2002); Smith v. Clark, 189 F. Supp. 2d 548 (S.D. Miss. 2002), aff’d sub nom. Branch v. Smith, 538 U.S. 254 (2003); Mauldin v. Branch, 866 So.2d 429 (Miss. 2003)]