Democrat Redistricting Plan May Win Out

(Jackson-AP) -- Hinds County Chancellor Patricia Wise has approved a congressional redistricting plan proposed by Democrats.

The map combines roughly equal territories of the southwestern district now represented by Democrat Ronnie Shows and the east central district now represented by Chip Pickering. The state's two junior congressmen are tossed together for the 2002 race.

Mississippi is losing one of its five US House seats because of slow population growth in the 1990s.

Lawmakers last month couldn't agree on a new map. The sticking point was over how to combine areas now represented by Pickering and Shows.

Redistricting landed in chancery court after Democratic plaintiffs filed a lawsuit. A group of Republicans intervened as defendants. In a five-day trial, Wise heard from experts on what standards should be used in redistricting and from public officials on how they want their areas of the state to be treated.

Even as they await the court-ordered congressional redistricting plan, Mississippi legislative leaders said the state House and Senate might jump back into the map drawing process. Ford and Lieutentant Governor Amy Tuck said in separate interviews before Wise's decision Friday that if legislators don't like what Wise rules, lead lawmakers on the redistricting issue might reopen stalled negotiations.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has said he'll call lawmakers back in for a special session only if leaders can guarantee they've worked out a plan that will pass both chambers. The regular 2002 session starts January 8th.

Ford said if legislators dive back into congressional redistricting, it will happen before then.