JACKSON, MS – Three federal judges say they'll take over Mississippi's congressional redistricting process.
In an order Tuesday, the judges said they're taking over because they think a map approved by a Hinds County chancery judge might not win U.S. Justice Department approval before a March 1 candidates' filing deadline.
The judges plan to meet with attorneys Wednesday to set a hearing schedule.
Republicans applauded the federal judges' move.
"I am pleased that the rule of law is being upheld and that the proper court, the United States District Court, has taken jurisdiction over this matter," said Grant Fox of Tupelo, an attorney representing Republicans in redistricting lawsuits.
GOP activists filed a lawsuit asking federal judges to draw a new, four-district congressional map after state lawmakers disagreed on how to combine areas now represented by Mississippi's two junior congressmen, Republican Chip Pickering and Democrat Ronnie Shows.
Mississippi is losing one of its five U.S. House seats because of slow population growth in the 1990s.
Democrats earlier filed a lawsuit in Hinds County Chancery Court. Judge Patricia Wise heard a week of testimony in December before approving a map proposed by Democrats.
That map was sent in late December to the Justice Department, which oversees Mississippi election changes to ensure fairness to minorities.