District 25 Sen. J. Walter Michel considers the process of redrawing the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts a little like solving a puzzle.
“It’s a big puzzle that you have to put together,” said Michel, a Republican who expects the boundaries of his district that includes Hinds and Madison counties to change because of population growth.
For the Senate, the puzzle consists of a map of Mississippi divided into 52 pieces, one piece about the same size for each district. For the House of Representatives, the puzzle consists of 122 pieces, one piece about the same size for each district. The puzzle also involves four pieces about the same size for each of the state’s four congressional districts.
“The idea is that each district contains roughly the same number of people,” said District 29 Sen. David Blount, a Democrat. “Every 10 years, the federal government does the census. People move in and out of the state and within the state. You have to figure out for each district how many people live in that district and make sure that the new districts are equal in size.”
Census data released in April showed that Mississippi was one of three states to lose population during the last 10 years. Because there are always population shifts within a state between censuses, some changes in district boundaries are always necessary after a census is taken.
A district can gain or lose as much as five percent in population, Blount said, but any more than that means it will need to have its number of people reduced.
Depending upon population change, redistricting means shrinking the size of a district that has seen its population grow and increasing the size of a nearby district that has seen its population decrease.
“Every change has a ripple effect on every other district,” said Blount.
When looking at legislative districts in northeast Jackson and Madison County, two districts in the Northside Sun’s readership area saw declines in population, according to information found on the Standing Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting website at msjrc.state.ms.us.
Senate District 29, which includes Hinds County, had a population of 56,204 in 2010 compared to a population of 54,224 in 2020. That produced a small decline of 3.53 percent in population.
House District 70, which is held by Democrat Bo Brown and includes Hinds County, had a significant population change. District 70 saw a 10.89 percent decrease in population from 23,466 in 2010 to 20,893 in 2020.
House District 64, which is held by Shanda Yates and includes Hinds and Madison counties, saw a small increase of 3.93 percent in population. The district had a population of 23,662 in 2010 compared to 24,593 in 2020.
Because Madison County experienced growth, it looks like change in those boundaries should be expected.
District 25, which is held by Michel and includes Madison County, had a population of 59,203 in 2010 and a population of 66,557 in 2020. That’s a 12.42 percent increase in population.
“District 25 will have to be constricted so it has less geographic area,” Michel said. “All of the districts around District 25 have had population loss.”
Michel expects both District 26, which includes Hinds and Madison counties and is represented by Democrat John Horhn, and District 21, which includes Attala, Holmes, Leake, Madison and Yazoo counties and is represented by Democrat Barbara Blackmon, will have to be enlarged because the districts have lost population. So will District 22, which includes Sunflower, Humphreys, Madison, Sharkey, Washington and Yazoo counties and is represented by Democrat Joseph Thomas, he said.
Michel’s district used to include Lake Caroline before the 2010 redistricting, but the boundaries changed due to population growth, he said.
House District 58, which includes Madison and is represented by Republican Joel Bomgar, gained population. In 2010, it had a population of 24,432 compared to 25,909 in 2020, an increase of 6.5 percent.
House District 73, which is represented by Republican Jill Ford and includes Madison, showed out with a 55.46 percent increase. The population in District 73 was 23,298 in 2010 compared to 36,218 in 2020.
The Mississippi Standing Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting draws the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts. Republican Jim Beckett of House District 23 chairs the House of Representatives committee, and Republican Dean Kirby of Senate District 30 serves as vice chair of the Senate’s committee.
“The House Representatives will do its own plan and the Senate will do its own plan,” Michel said, “which is logical. It’s the best way to do it.”
Hearings about redistricting were held throughout the state in August and live streamed.
The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the full Legislature early in the 2022 session on congressional redistricting. The Legislature will need to complete congressional redistricting quickly since the deadline to qualify to run for U.S. House seats in 2022 is March 1.