Desoto County News

Court rules legislative districts will need to be redrawn

Districts in and around DeSoto County will need to have more Black voter representation

Jul 3, 2024 – Legislative district boundaries in and around DeSoto County will need to be redrawn if a federal court decision holds. 

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others on behalf of the state NAACP against the State Election Commission ruled that legislative Black-majority districts will need to be drawn in the state. The current districts as drawn violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, diluting the voting strength of Black Mississippi voters.  

The ruling, issued Tuesday night from the Southern District of Mississippi, requires the creation of new Black-majority Senate districts in the areas in and around DeSoto County, in and around the city of Hattiesburg, and a new Black-majority House district in Chickasaw and Monroe counties.

The court ruled that several new Black-majority districts should have been created when the new districts were drawn after the 2020 Census.  

DeSoto County was an area specifically addressed in the court ruling, which noted the county contains the fastest-growing African-American population in the state.  

One of the witnesses for the plaintiffs was Patricia Hamner, a 2023 candidate for state Senate in District 2 and who lost to state Sen. Dr. David Parker (R-Olive Branch) by a 56-44 percent margin. 

A former television news reporter, Hamner has had one other run for political office, but lost in her candidacy for the Southaven Board of Aldermen in 2021.  

According to the court’s decision, Hamner testified that she received threats during her campaign in some parts of the district, although few details were given.  Hamner also testified that she campaigned very little in Hernando, where police was called on her canvassers, adding that police were also called on her during her 2021 campaign in Southaven. 

“Hamner’s trial testimony implies she and her party members were treated this way because she was a black candidate campaigning in a predominantly white area,” quoting the court ruling.  

In reaction to the court’s decision, ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Jarvis Dortch said, “The court rightly held that the Mississippi Legislature used the redistricting process to dilute the power of Black voters. Those legislative districts denied Black Mississippians an equal voice in state government.”

The lawsuit, Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP v. State Board of Election Commissioners, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The ruling is here.