Lawsuit filed on behalf of Black Mississippians against State Board of Election Commissioners, Gov. Tate Reeves (R), Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) and Secretary of State Michael Watson (R) challenging the districts used for electing justices to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The plaintiffs allege that the districts used for electing justices to Mississippi’s nine-member state Supreme Court dilute the voting strength of Black Mississippians in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). “Mississippi’s population is almost 40 percent Black—a greater proportion than any other State in the nation. Yet in the 100 years that Mississippi has elected its Supreme Court by popular vote, there have been a total of only four Black justices ever to sit on that body,” the complaint notes.
According to the complaint, since 1987, Mississippi has utilized the same three at-large districts — which “were drawn by the Legislature over the objections of Black lawmakers” — to elect its nine state Supreme Court justices. Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that “the district representing the center of the State—District 1—could readily be redrawn, in a manner consistent with traditional districting principles, to have a Black voting age majority, such that Black voters have an opportunity to elect candidates of choice. This modest change would keep the State’s overall districting scheme for Supreme Court elections intact, while also ensuring that those elections comply with federal law.” Finally, the plaintiffs underscore the fact that voting is “heavily polarized on the basis of race across Mississippi” and that the state has a long history of discriminating against Black voters. The plaintiffs ask the court to declare the current districts in violation of the VRA and to require the enactment of state Supreme Court districts “that do not abridge or dilute the ability of Black voters to elect candidates of choice.”