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Mississippi editorial roundup

July 10, 2019

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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July 5

The Enterprise-Journal on how the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering will affect the state:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision ... to uphold partisan gerrymandering was terribly disappointing.

By a 5-4 vote that split along ideological lines, the conservatives on the court said it was none of the judiciary’s business how states draw their election boundaries as long as they aren’t diluting the strength of minority voters, which previous high court decisions have said is a constitutional violation of the “one person, one vote” principle.

In states such as Mississippi, where party lines closely follow racial lines, it may be hard to tell where partisan gerrymandering ends and racial gerrymandering begins. Since Republicans dominate the Legislature, which draws the lines for legislative and congressional elections, and black voters are almost monolithically Democratic, any effort to rig an election in favor of Republican candidates is very likely to dilute black voting strength.

But even if racial concerns can be separated from partisan ones, allowing political parties to draw election lines that increase their power is patently unfair. And while GOP gerrymandering has been most common in recent years, this practice is one that Democrats have used in the past, and most likely will now employ even more, in places where they have majority control.

In fact, the Supreme Court’s ruling was in response to two cases — one involving Republican-led gerrymandering in North Carolina and the other over Democratic-drawn district in Maryland.

No matter which party is drawing self-serving boundaries, the consequences are detrimental. When one party can dominate elections in seeming perpetuity, it eliminates what would normally be a healthy give-and-take in the formulation of public policy and diminishes the motivation to compromise.

Partisan gerrymandering also drives candidates to the extremes, since they don’t have to worry about appealing to voters whose sympathies lean toward the other side of the political aisle. As much as any other factor, this contributes to the widening divisions within America today.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in writing for the majority, said the court’s decision was not intended to condone “excessive partisan gerrymandering,” even while it empowers it.

He said that if states want to take the power of drawing boundaries out of the hands of legislators, they are free to do so. That’s what more than a dozen states have done in going toward nonpartisan or bipartisan commissions to handle the responsibility of redrawing election boundaries after every census.

The problem is, though, about the only way that is going to happen in Mississippi is through the initiative process, which is rarely successful. It’s highly improbable that incumbent GOP lawmakers will voluntarily give up this power to try to ensure their own election and the dominance of their party in state politics.

The Supreme Court had an opportunity to prod them to do so. It squandered that chance.

Online: http://www.enterprise-journal.com

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July 5

The Natchez Democrat on flaws in Mississippi’s justice system:

Yet another recently released Mississippi Department of Corrections inmate is the main suspect in yet another violent crime.

Gerry Byrd was released in March this year after serving only a portion of his 25-year sentence for burglary on a plea deal in 2013 to reduce the charge from armed robbery to burglary.

Now, Byrd is the main suspect in a ... case in which he is believed to have shot a woman he was traveling with in a vehicle on I-110 in Baton Rouge and thrown her out of the car before fleeing north.

The victim was later found wandering with a gunshot wound beside the interstate and taken to a hospital with what was believed to be a non-life-threatening injury. When Byrd arrived in Woodville, police said, he nearly crashed through the front doors of a convenience store before entering the store brandishing two guns and slapping the clerk around.

When a police officer arrived, the officer said Byrd moved toward him so the officer shot Byrd, who was airlifted to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

That was the second such case of a recently released MDOC inmate in one week. ... Marvin Anthony Watson, who was under MDOC probation for a 2014 manslaughter conviction in an Adams County nightclub shooting death of a man, is the main suspect in the shooting deaths of a woman and her son in Clayton, Louisiana.

Watson had his attorney contact law enforcement in Adams County to turn himself in.

Speculation is Watson knew he could get a shorter sentence in Mississippi where prison crowding and a backlog of cases at the Mississippi State Crime Lab cripple investigations and lead to plea deals for lesser crimes and shorter sentences for which perpetrators serve only a percentage of the reduced time.

It is past time for the Mississippi Legislature to fix the criminal justice system in Mississippi that has become a revolving door that not only returns convicted criminals to the community to commit more crimes but also hamstrings law enforcement and prosecutors from being able to get convictions.

Fix this mess, state lawmakers.

Online: https://www.natchezdemocrat.com

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July 4

The Daily Leader on two new state space programs:

Gov. Phil Bryant announced this week that he is starting two new space endeavors — one for economic development and one for defense.

Bryant announced the Space Initiative on Monday during an event at Stennis Space Center in coastal Hancock County, where NASA rocket engines are tested, The Associated Press reported.

The leader of the economic development effort will be Patrick Scheuermann, former head of Stennis Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center.

Bryant also announced the formation of a Mississippi National Guard Space Directorate. Its commander will be Col. Billy Murphy of the Mississippi Air National Guard’s 186th Air Operations Group, AP reported.

A news release from the governor’s office says the directorate lines up with President Donald Trump’s Space Force Initiative, and will create and use space technology for defense and for disaster response.

While looking to the future is wise, we have a better idea for a new project — the “Back 40 directorate.”

Many of Mississippi’s rural roads and bridges are crumbling, or closed or dangerous. Instead of conquering the final frontier, let’s conquer the state’s asphalt and concrete. Infrastructure is crucial to the state’s longterm future, and currently the state isn’t doing enough to maintain it.

While some paving is taking place in Lincoln County, there are still bridges that are closed and black-topped roads that look more like gravel roads.

Space may be state’s future, but today we need better roads and bridges.

https://www.dailyleader.com

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