Federal judge rules Mississippi state Senate district violates Voting Rights Act

A federal judge ruled this week that a Mississippi state Senate district violates the Voting Rights Act and needs to be redrawn before statewide elections in November.

U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves, an Obama appointee, ruled on Tuesday that State Senate District 22 — which has been held by Sen. Buck Clark (R) since 2004 — violates the 1965 federal law that prohibits racial discrimination in voting, Mississippi Today reported.

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Clark is not running for reelection as state senator this year but will be running for state treasurer, according to Mississippi Today.

“As presently drawn, District 22 does not afford the plaintiffs ‘an equal opportunity to participate in the political processes and to elect candidates of their choice,'” Reeves wrote in his decision.

The district stretches for 102 miles across six counties that includes the Jackson metro area.

Three African American men filed a federal lawsuit in June, accusing the state of gerrymandering the district to purposefully dilute African-American votes, the outlet noted.

The plaintiffs, Joseph Thomas of Yazoo County, Vernon Ayers of Washington County and Melvin Lawson of Bolivar County, live in three predominately African-American counties.

Their lawsuit argues that state election officials elongated the district to include wealthy and largely white neighborhoods, diminishing the district’s black voting-age population down to 50.8 percent.

The gerrymandered lines plus a white bloc voting and lower African-American turnout has adversely affected the black vote in one of the state's most predominantly black communities, the lawsuit argued.