State of Mississippi

Mississippi Congressional Redistricting Challenge

Buck v. Reeves

Lawsuit filed by John Walker Smith, Shirley Hall and Gene Walker against the Mississippi secretary of state, governor and attorney general as well as the Mississippi Republican Party Executive Committee (MREC) and Mississippi Democratic Party Executive Committee (MDEC) challenging Mississippi’s congressional map drawn with 2000 census data for being malapportioned in violation of the U.S. Constitution. This lawsuit, Smith v. Watson, was consolidated with another lawsuit called Buck v. Reeves. On Feb. 4, 2002, a three-judge panel ordered Mississippi to implement a court-drawn congressional plan containing four congressional districts (one of which was a majority-Black district) for use in “all succeeding congressional primary and general elections for the State of Mississippi thereafter, until the State of Mississippi produces a constitutional congressional redistricting plan that is precleared in accordance with the procedures in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” Following this judgment, until 2011, every subsequent congressional primary and general election in Mississippi was held under this four-district plan drawn by the court since the Legislature failed to produce a precleared congressional plan in the years after the court’s 2002 order. 

Then, following the release of 2010 census data, the court amended its 2002 judgment because the map it previously ordered had become malapportioned. In the Dec. 30, 2011 judgment amending its 2002 judgment, the court ordered the state of Mississippi to utilize a new court-drawn congressional map for the 2012 primary and general elections and until “such time as the State of Mississippi produces a constitutional congressional redistricting plan that is precleared in accordance with the procedures in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” 

Upon release of the 2020 census data, the court-drawn map was again rendered malapportioned. On Jan. 24, 2022, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed House Bill 384, a new four-district congressional redistricting plan. On the same day, MREC filed a motion to vacate the court’s 2011 judgment that required Mississippi to draw a congressional redistricting plan that was precleared under Section 5 of the VRA. In the motion, MREC — joined by the Mississippi governor, secretary of state, attorney general and two other individual voters — claimed that the 2011 order no longer applied since the 2011 congressional map became malapportioned following the release of 2020 census data and therefore, the state’s new congressional redistricting plan, H.B. 384, should go into effect. MDEC and other individual voters (the Buck plaintiffs) opposed this motion, arguing that H.B. 384 was racially gerrymandered in violation of the U.S. Constitution and was not precleared under Section 5 of the VRA. In support of the latter position, they argued that the Shelby County decision made the VRA’s preclearance coverage formula in Section 4 unconstitutional, but left Section 5 in place. Nonetheless, on May 23, 2022, the three-judge panel vacated the 2011 injunction holding that the 2011 order no longer applied since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder meant that preclearance is no longer required, but did not address the racial gerrymandering claims made by the parties opposing the motion to vacate the 2011 order. On June 8, 2022, the parties opposing the court’s vacatur of the 2011 order filed a motion to alter or amend the court’s May 23 order, which was subsequently denied on July 25, 2022.

On Sept. 22, 2022, seven individual voters (the Buck plaintiffs) appealed the district court’s May 23 and July 25 orders to the U.S. Supreme Court. In their petition to the Supreme Court, the petitioners argue that the district court “created or perpetuated a constitutional violation when it vacated its 2011 injunction because the court allowed a racially gerrymandered plan – H.B. 384 – to go into effect.” The petitioners also contend that H.B. 384 “placed more black voters in CD2 than necessary to afford black voters an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice” and is therefore an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. They also add that the respondents did not have “a strong basis in evidence supporting their argument that H.B. 384 packed black voters in CD2 to comply with §2 of the Voting Rights Act.” The petitioners ultimately ask the Supreme Court to reverse the district court’s orders and to remand the case back down to the district court with instructions to “modify its 2011 injunction consistent with this Court’s ruling.” On Feb. 21, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

Case Documents (trial court)

Case Documents (u.s. supreme court)

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