Black Voting Strength at Stake in Republican Request to 5th Circuit


JACKSON—Mississippi Republican leaders are fighting a ruling to increase black voting power in a gerrymandered state Senate district that meanders about 100 miles from Cleveland in the Mississippi Delta down into Madison County just north of Jackson.

Republican state leaders are asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today to reverse U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves' February ruling that the Mississippi Legislature must redraw the Senate District 22 map to increase black voting power because it is a clear racial gerrymander. Though the Legislature already approved a new map in February, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, both Republicans, are asking a three-judge panel at the appeals court in New Orleans to reverse Reeves' decision.

One 5th Circuit judge made her position on the case clear months ago, though, just after two of the judges on the panel refused Mississippi's request to stay Reeves' order. Judge Edith Brown Clement, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, wrote in her dissent that Joseph Thomas, one of the plaintiffs, is "a black Democrat" who is "trying hard to get his seat back." She also accused Reeves of writing a ruling that is "narrowly tailored to win Thomas the election."

Clement wrote that Mississippi would have won on appeal at the 5th Circuit if it had not "had the poor luck of drawing a majority-minority panel." Presumably, she was referring to the fact that Democratic appointees were a majority on the panel even though they are a minority on the overall 5th Circuit. Democratic presidents appointed the two other judges on the panel.

"I have never seen a judge, federal or state, write an opinion as overtly partisan as hers," Rep. David Baria, the Democratic House minority leader, told the Jackson Free Press after her dissent in March.

The 5th Circuit

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