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Lauderdale County intact under Tuck plan

By By Buddy Bynum/The Meridian Star
Oct. 20, 2001
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck's attempt to break an impasse in the redistricting process could at least give U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering a fighting chance to hold his seat in Congress, according to his campaign manager.
Tuck threw what she called a "Senate" plan into the mix Friday in hopes of jump starting a special legislative committee that so far as been unable to agree on new district lines. Mississippi will lose a seat in the U.S. House in the 2002 elections and observers believe a race between incumbents Pickering, R-Miss., and U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss., is likely.
The plan unveiled by Tuck includes black voting age population of 34.35 percent in a new central Mississippi district that would include all or part of 26 counties in a swath from Lowndes in the east to Adams and Wilkinson in the southwest corner of the state.
Pickering's political operatives have said they would prefer a black voting age percentage of 32 percent or less, but recognize that isn't likely to happen in the highly-politicized redistricting effort dominated by Democrats in the Legislature.
Importantly, the Tuck plan would leave Lauderdale County intact, along with 21 other counties in a central district. Under her plan, Clarke, Covington and Jones counties would be split between the central and coast districts and Lowndes would be split between the central and northern district.
Tuck called on Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to summon lawmakers the week of Oct. 29 to take up the issue, although there was no immediate response from the governor's office. The special redistricting committee last met on Oct. 5 and has not scheduled another meeting.
Mississippi's new congressional districts must be approved in time for U.S. Justice Department approval before the March 1, 2002, qualifying date. If the Legislature fails to act by the end of this year, it is likely that a court will be asked to draw the lines.
Tuck repeatedly referred to the plan she presented as a consensus'' of Senate members and one its members would present to the Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee.
Tuck also said the plan was a jumping off point for the committee, which has shot down all three redistricting maps proposed so far.
It appears we have an impasse. It appears that we aren't going to have an agreement,'' she said at a state Capitol news conference. We felt it was important for the Senate to come with a proposal.''
A total of 10 counties would be split under Tuck's plan, which would maintain a majority-black Delta district, increasing the black voting age population to 58.3 percent.
The black voting age populations would be 22 percent black in the northern district and 19.4 percent in the coast district under Tuck's plan.
The black voting age population is important because it helps determine whether a district leans Republican or Democrat. Voting patterns show a lower black population helps Republicans and a higher one helps Democrats.
Certainly, there is room for compromise,'' Tuck said. This begins the process. What I have tried to do is what is in the best interest of the state and get this process moving.''
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3213, or e-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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