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Miss. House, Senate districts jumbled mess

Take a look at the two maps at the right.  Both look sort of like jigsaw puzzles.  Did you realize, however, that this is what the legislative maps of the state of Mississippi looks like–a big, poorly constructed jigsaw puzzle?
Actually, a jigsaw puzzle probably has more rhyme and reason to it than either of the two maps at right.  As one puts together a jigsaw puzzle, by looking at the picture on the box in from which the pieces came, one can begin to envision which ones fit where as he reconstructs the puzzle.  He can look at the remaining pieces and begin to form visual groups.  After the outer edges are done, things begin to make a little sense.  Eventually, the puzzle pieces fit a little faster and the final product is complete.
The Mississippi legislature is tasked with redrawing district lines this year, based on data collected by the U. S. Census bureau over the past couple of years.  Because of past disenfranchisement of voters, mostly in the early twentieth century, the maps must be approved by the U. S. Department of Justice before the new lines take effect.
The mappers at the least must strive to obtain a balance in population per district, and must also strike a balance between white and black voting strength on the whole, as per the federal government’s mandate.
Because of this, as one can easily see, many counties, like our own beloved Copiah, are split into several House  and Senate districts, which dilutes the strength of the voters in the counties.  Look at some of the House districts, such as No. 97 that stretches from Adams across parts of Amite, Lincoln, Pike, Walthall and Lawrence counties.  How crazy is that?
Common sense tells us that districts ought to take into account regional similarities, and the rural counties should be kept in one–or, two, at the most–so as not to pit the citizenry of the areas against each other.   Copiah County should not be split into four representative districts and have one corner of the county (Dist. 35) in a Senate district separate from the rest of the county, which lies in Dist. 36.
Those we elected and re-elected in 2011 are in charge of this, unless they can’t agree or their plans are rejected, then, the federal government takes over with a three-judge panel making the final decision.  Whether we like it or not, the decision may be out of our hands.
The final approved 2012 version of these maps will be interesting to see.  Some of the population centers have drifted from the traditional areas since these were created in 2002.  Hopefully, Copiah County and others like it will be redrawn into only a couple of House districts at most and only one Senate district.
Joe B. Coates

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