Flaggs introduces 2 redistricting plans

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2001

[08/08/01]State Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, has composed two proposals for redrawing the 2nd Congressional District, both of which clash with a plan supported by the district’s current congressman.

Flaggs, Warren County’s senior legislator and a member of the Joint Legislative Reapportionment and Congressional Redistricting Committee, said he crafted the two maps as alternatives to plans offered by rival groups of Republicans and other Democrats.

The Republican “economic development” plan stretches the 2nd District too long, and the district includes too many counties in the “community coalition” map drawn by Democrats and backed by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, Flaggs said.

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Mississippi is moving from five congressional districts to four, and state lawmakers have to draw new district boundaries by early next year. The adjustment is required because, while Mississippi’s population increased over the past decade, it did so at a slower pace than many other states.

Flaggs’ proposals slightly extend District 2’s borders, and both of his plans increase the minority voting-age population to 58.5 percent from 58.1 percent in Mississippi’s only majority-black congressional district. The maps are identical except at the district’s southern boundary one includes Jefferson County, while the other does not.

“A congressman would find it easier to serve his constituents in this district,” Flaggs said today. “His office only has so much money to spend on constituent services, and the other plans are stretching those dollars too thin.”

The “economic development” blueprint proposes a long, narrow 2nd District running from Tunica County near Memphis to Wilkinson County on the Louisiana border. In the “community coalition” plan, the district stretches from Tunica to Adams County and includes Panola and Tallahatchie counties and part of Tate.

Thompson, who did not return calls for comment this morning, has said he supports the community coalition plan but will accept the redistricting committee’s recommendation.

The U.S. Justice Department must approve the districts to ensure fairness to minorities, and it has 60 days to consider a plan after receiving it. New districts must also have equal populations, about 711,000 people each in Mississippi.

With a March 1 qualifying deadline for congressional candidates, that means maps with new district lines must be approved before the regular session starts in early January.