By CARL SMITH
Mississippi House members passed a Republican statewide redistricting plan Thursday which includes a reduction of Oktibbeha County state representatives.
The resolution now travels to the Senate, where legislators have not issued their own plan. Once approved by the state, the new redistricting map must be OK’d by the U.S. Justice Department.
Currently, Oktibbeha County is represented by Rep. Joey Hood, District 35; Rep. Charles Jim Beckett, Dist. 23; Tyrone Ellis, District 38; and Gary Chism, District 37. Chism said the approved plan would reduce the number of districts reaching into the county to three: Chism’s, Ellis’ and a newly designated District 43. Also, Chism said Ellis’ district and the newly designated district will represent Starkville proper.
Chism, a Republican, said the plan addresses Oktibbeha County residents’ desire to lower the number of total county representatives.
“Back when we had hearings last year when we went through this, a big concern was voiced about the Starkville area having so many representatives. Previously, the county was divided up with four representatives. People requested to only have two or three,” he said. “The Republican plan addresses those concerns. What I thought was a little distasteful is that three of the four representatives, including myself, live outside of the county.”
Ellis, the lone representative who lives in Starkville, joined 48 of his fellow Democrats in voting against the bill. Many critics of the GOP’s plan, including Ellis, say the new boundaries could cut a number of Democratic representatives. House Democrats are likely to turn toward a legal battle to prevent the redistricting’s implementation.
“There’s a clear, clear perception of stacking, cracking and hacking throughout that plan. Anyone who deals with (demographics) can see that,” Ellis said. “If you were to adopt this plan, you would lose a significant number of Democrats. Conceivably, you could lose seven to 10 representatives. The vote was an exercise of futility.”