MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mississippi civic leaders filed a lawsuit against Mississippi’s Supreme Court, claiming that state district lines reduce Black voter strength and violate the Voting Rights act of 1965, and furthermore, violate the Constitution.
According to The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi (ACLU of Mississippi), a voter rights group that is helping civic leaders argue their case, the state’s district lines been disproportionately set for more than 35 years, making it difficult for Mississippi’s Black population to maintain voting power.
Black Civic leaders and ACLU of Mississippi are requesting that the district lines be “redrawn” to provide Black voters with “equal” opportunity at the polls, giving them the option to elect candidates that they choose, AACLU said.
“Mississippi’s Supreme Court districts dilute the voice and the votes of Black Mississippians in violation of federal law,” Ari Savitzky, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said. “Mississippi can and must do better. The Supreme Court of Mississippi should reflect the people of Mississippi.”
Despite about 40% of Mississippi’s population being black, only four Black justices have been elected in the state’s past 100 years of holding Supreme Court elections.
ACLU of Mississippi said that there has never been more than one Black justice to serve at one time, and it has been almost 20 years since the last Black justice served on the state’s Supreme Court.
The Mississippi Supreme Court lacks representation, making it easy for laws and legislations passed by the court to miss the mark, failing to advocate for and protect its largely Black population.
The state’s Black civic leaders believe that the lack of representation in the Supreme Court, as well as the crippled voting power, allows the high court of law to overlook issues that matter to, and that greatly affect, the Black community.
“A Black citizen from the Mississippi Delta should have just as much of an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the Supreme Court as anyone else,” Ty Pinkins, a 20-year Army veteran and Georgetown Law graduate, said. “And a Black lawyer from the Delta should have just as much of an opportunity to serve on the Court as anyone else.”
ACLU of Mississippi joined with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) , and the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP to file the lawsuit on behalf of Mississippi’s Black civil leaders.