Federal judges to draw state's congressional lines - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Federal judges to draw state's congressional lines

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Handfuls of lawyers walked out of Federal Court in downtown Jackson Tuesday morning and although they don't agree on everything, they do seem to agree something.

"This situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible," said state Democratic Chairman Rickey Cole.

That situation is how the lines will be drawn for Mississippi's four congressional districts.

It's a task; according to law, supposed to be done by the legislature, but is now set to be done by three federal judges, the same three judges which drew the lines 10 years ago.

The new lines need to be in place by January 13, which is the qualifying deadline for congressional candidates.

"We don't want any uncertainty out there. We need to know what the lines are, where the candidates are going to run so that people can pay attention to the candidates and know who to vote," Cole said.

The lines must be redone to reflect population shifts, mainly within the second district.

During court Tuesday the judges said they would draw the lines if the legislature doesn't act by December 4 which is the legislative deadline.

Although lawmakers still have time to put the lines in place, through a special session, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann doubts it will happen.

"Clearly there's not been any movement in the last month or two towards that goal," Hosemann said.

Hosemann says by the court drawing the lines, it would avoid pre-clearance from the Justice Department which could take months.

If a plan is not in place, Hosemann says the presidential primary could be postponed as well as a need for a special election, costing the state about a million dollars.

"My main goal is to have those districts done and hold the elections on time with the minimum amount of expense," Hosemann said.

As the wait continues, more legal filings are piling up, including a proposed congressional map submitted by attorney Carroll Rhodes who says the legislature's failure must be handled in court.

"We want to make sure that the congressional elections are held on schedule and that they're held under a plan that recognizes one person, one vote," Rhodes said.

The judges are taking the newly submitted plan under advisement as they prepare to tie up loose ends from legislature.

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