MCJ and Partners Wrap Up Eight-Day Trail over Legislative Redistricting

Yesterday, the Mississippi Center for Justice and its partners completed an eight-day trial challenging the under-representation of Black voters in the redistricting plan that the Mississippi legislature adopted in 2022 to elect its members. Here is a video of MCJ’s Impact Litigation Director, Rob McDuff, speaking from outside the federal courthouse yesterday.

MCJ joined forces with the ACLU, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Morgan Lewis law firm, and attorney Carroll Rhodes to represent the Mississippi State Conference NAACP and Black voters from around the state in this challenge brought under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The team presented extensive evidence that despite the Black population growth in Mississippi over recent years, the legislature failed to increase the number of majority Black election districts even though it easily could have.

This is the latest in a long line of court challenges to legislative redistricting in Mississippi.  When the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, allowing Black voters to vote in meaningful numbers for the first time since the Reconstruction era, the legislature was all white.  One Black member, Robert Clark, was elected in 1967. Painstaking litigation led to the election of four more Black legislators in 1975 (including Fred Banks, who later served as MCJ’s first Board Chair) and to the election of additional Black members in 1978 and 1979. In the ensuing years, additional cases were filed to increase the number of majority Black election districts, including one filed by MCJ and the Lawyers Committee just a few years ago. Despite these gains, the number is still too low, particularly in light of the recent growth of the Black population.

In yesterday’s trial, the team asked the federal court to order the state to create four new majority Black state senate districts and three new majority Black state House districts. We expect a decision from the federal court in the coming weeks.

As explained by MCJ’s President and CEO, Vangela M. Wade: “This is the latest chapter in the ongoing struggle of Black people in Mississippi for fair representation and the right to cast a meaningful ballot on Election Day. MCJ’s redistricting litigation in recent years is part of its overall campaign to protect the right to vote. With democracy itself threatened in a way we have never seen before, we must be particularly vigilant in protecting the right to vote, which is the cornerstone of democracy.”

Even since its founding in 2003, MCJ has protected the rights of Mississippians and has been a catalyst for positive change. Please continue to support our work as we move forward together.