JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The Mississippi Senate has rejected a House redistricting plan - an action that has drawn a lawsuit and possibly set the stage for federal intervention in the state's election process.
"By a vote of 29 yays and 18 nos, the motion has passed the Senate," announced Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant in front of the full Senate.
With that motion the state Senate made it clear, they will not be supporting a redistricting plan from the House.
"It's relief. We've been fighting for the better part of the month," said Republican Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall.
The Senate voted Thursday to send the heavily debated redistricting issue to a conference committee.
"Hopefully they can work it out and make it a better plan for everybody," said Republican Senator Billy Hudson of Hattiesburg.
A conference however, may not happen. House Speaker Billy McCoy already told lawmakers if the Senate rejected the House plan, which it did, he would not appoint conferees to the conference committee. That's a move those in support of a conference say shows an unwillingness to work together.
"It's just insane. I don't understand that kind of thinking," said Fillingane.
Meanwhile, senators in support of approving the house plan say it's up to the House to create its plan, not the Senate.
"It would be to no avail to go to conference. What would it accomplish? The Senate has done its work," said Democratic Senator David Jordan of Greenwood.
If conferees are not appointed from the House, the next step for redistricting would be the Justice Department and if a plan is not in place by June, Mississippi would have to have two back-to-back elections. Some lawmakers say that's plenty of time. Others say no way.
"Who's right and who's wrong, I can't say. What I can say is we had a responsibility to take care of the affairs of the state of Mississippi," said Democratic Senator Kenneth Jones of Canton. "Now we got to go to the Justice Department and say help us do what we couldn't do ourselves, what we've been elected to do."
If the two bodies can't agree, it would be up to a panel of judges to draw the state's district lines, since the only lines being drawn now are political battle lines.
Shortly after the vote, the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction to block this year's elections under the current district lines, because they don't reflect the latest census figures.
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