Because of violence and other abuses on minorities by state and local government’s around the country (mostly in the south) the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required these states, including Mississippi, to have their redistricting maps get a final stamp of approval by the US Justice Department, among other provisions.
The federal government’s selective oversight over Mississippi’s redistricting nearly 50 years later “offends” Lt Gov Phil Bryant. From MSBusiness.com:
“We’ve got a Justice Department, we’ve got people in Washington, D.C., saying, ‘We’re going to look over your shoulder and tell you where every line is supposed to be, where every dot is supposed to be,’” Bryant told dozens of Republican women at the Capitol. “So the Obama Justice Department’s going to tell us how we ought to be doing things in Mississippi?”
“That happened in 1965, and I’m offended by the fact that the federal government does not trust members of this Legislature to draw these lines,” Bryant said.
Bryant said people shouldn’t expect the law to be repealed anytime soon.
Lt Gov Phil Bryant has every right to be offended that the federal government picks and chooses how it treats some states and localities over others. I’m offended too. But Bryant cleverly words his speech to infer that the USDOJ’s oversight on Mississippi’s redistricting is a product of the Obama administration – no doubt an attempt to rally support behind his campaign to be Governor.
But who’s really to blame for this federal oversight nearly 50 years later? The fact is, every so often the Voting Rights Act of 1965 comes up for renewal – most recently in 2006 – when George Bush was President and Republicans held a majority in the House and Senate. Seems to me like 2006 would’ve been a pretty good time to rid Mississippi of the federal oversight that supposedly offends Phil Bryant.
Unfortunately, Phil Bryant’s own Republican colleagues in Washington DC don’t “trust members of the MS Legislature to draw these lines” – in Bryant’s own words. The fact is that when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 came up for renewal in 2006, 192 out of 230 House Republicans and 52 out of 54 Senate Republicans voted in favor reauthorizing it before George Bush signed it into law. This include both of Mississippi’s Republican US Senators and both of Mississippi’s Republican US Congressmen:
Yea – Thad Cochran, MS [R]
Yea – Trent Lott, MS [R]
Aye – Roger Wicker, MS [R]
Aye – Bennie Thompson, MS [D]
Aye – Charles Pickering, MS [R]
Aye – Gene Taylor, MS [D]
In fact, the bill to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was sponsored by a Republican and co-sponsored by 27 other Republicans, including Republicans from states and localities that were under the federal government’s oversight.
According to Section 4, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 also extended federal oversight over Mississippi for another 15 years. That would be July 27, 2021 – after the 2020 census and after another round of redistricting:
Extends: (1) the time for reconsideration of federal oversight of jurisdictions which once used suspended voting tests or devices until 15 years after the enactment of this Act; and (2) related requirements for such jurisdictions until 25 years after the enactment of this Act.
If you think Mississippi’s Republican leaders really mean what they say and say what they mean, and if you think they really want to limit the federal government’s intrusion into Mississippi, you’re wrong (see the federally-funded SLDS too). We can’t continue to shovel the federal government out of the state with one hand while shoveling the federal government back in to the state with the other.