Judicial redistricting rumors stirring up controversy before process actually begins

Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 7:40 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s almost time for state lawmakers to redraw the judicial lines for Mississippi, and Madison County is at the center of recent chatter. But before the redistricting work has gotten started, the controversy is already heating up. It has made its way into one of the statewide races.

Not all existing judicial maps match up. Madison and Rankin counties make up one circuit court district, but it’s Madison, Holmes, and Yazoo in the chancery court district. The latest social media and political chatter is that the circuit district could change, separating Madison and Rankin County and adding in Holmes or Yazoo. Senator Brice Wiggins says this about the talk.

“It makes no sense because nothing has been done yet,” noted Sen. Brice Wiggins. “Traditionally and historically, judicial redistricting has been done through the Judiciary A committees in the House and the Senate. The Judiciary committees have done nothing. At this point, nothing. There’s no plan. There’s no suggestions. There’s no nothing.”

Wiggins does note that there are specific guidelines his committee will be bound to follow according to state law. Population shifts are part of that, but there’s more.

“There are caseloads,” he mentions. “There are judges, a number of judges. There are, you know, different things to look at. I will say this, the districts that we have, unless I’m missing something, have been in place for 30-something years, at least. So our citizens have a right to have a judicial branch that is responsive to them. And they have a right to be served by the courts in an efficient manner.”

The issue has become part of the back and forth in the Lt. Governor’s race, with Chris McDaniel pointing fingers at Delbert Hosemann.

“Delbert got caught trying to broker a backroom deal to change the district,” said Senator Chris McDaniel in a statement. “Now he’s trying to reverse course. So let me be clear — the people of Madison County and Rankin County have my full support. I will protect Madison County and its present judicial district with Rankin County. Under no circumstances will I do anything to harm or redraw the present district. They deserve judges and prosecutors who are conservative and tough on crime.”

Hosemann also responded to our request for comment.

“I am opposed to dividing the current circuit court district composed of Rankin and Madison Counties, and so are other Republican Senators who represent these areas,” said Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann.

Senator Wiggins says he intends to hold hearings on the judicial redistricting issue but will have to wait until after the general election when they know who has been elected.

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