A state Senate district in Mississippi dilutes black voting power and should be redrawn, three African-American plaintiffs say in a federal lawsuit filed Monday. The suit asks a judge to order legislators to reconfigure the district before the 2019 state elections. District 22 has a 51 percent black voting-age population, and the suit says it lacks “real electoral opportunity” for African-Americans. “The lack of opportunity is the result of white bloc voting and lower African-American turnout that are vestiges of the historical discrimination and extreme socio-economic disparities that have been inflicted upon African-Americans over a long period of time,” the lawsuit says.
The district has been represented since January 2004 by Republican Sen. Eugene “Buck” Clarke of Hollandale, who is white and is chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
The district is more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) long, stretching through parts of six counties — Bolivar, Humphreys, Sharkey, Washington, Yazoo and Madison. It goes from the impoverished Delta flatlands down into the affluent Jackson suburbs.
Clarke said Monday that he had not read the lawsuit, but all of Mississippi’s legislative districts were approved in 2012 by the Justice Department under then-President Barack Obama.