Mississippi to Change ‘Jim Crow Era’ Voting Laws

Many have called the state of Mississippi one of the last strongholds of the American South. The fact that the Confederate symbol is just now being removed from the state flag is proof of that. However, it isn’t the only change being considered.

Next up: the voting laws for electing state officials.

As far as the state held elections go, Mississippi has a decidedly unique position. In fact, it is the only state which requires that candidates running for titles like the governor and other statewide offices win not only the popular vote but also the majority of votes in each of the state’s House districts. In this way, it not all that different from the way our federal or presidential elections are held.

However, it has been noted that the electoral college-like process was added to the state’s constitution during the Jim Crow era. And this gives plenty of people the idea that it isn’t exactly fair to black American candidates somehow. Therefore, the state has considered changing the process.

They will do so putting it to a vote, adding it to the ballot this November along with the proposed new state flag design.

According to the Associated Press, “Later this year, the state’s voters will decide whether to dump a statewide election process that dates to the Jim Crow era. Facing pressure from a lawsuit and the possibility of action from a federal judge, legislators are putting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in November.” They added, “The amendment would simplify elections for governor and other statewide officials by erasing an Electoral College-type provision from Mississippi’s 1890 constitution – one that was written to dilute Black voting power and maintain white control of state politics.”

Now, as the Associated Press has mentioned, this law undoubtedly had racially driven roots. The date of its inception is proof enough of that. In addition, during the first few years of it being put in place, it did, in fact, prove to be a stumbling block for black or minority voters and candidates.

The argument today is whether or not it still does.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder and avid Obama supporter thinks it does. He is noted to have said that it “violates the principle of one-person, one-vote.” And the Mississippi Center for Justice, which is representing the plaintiffs in the case to erase the law, says that it “clearly shows intent to circumvent the rights of African Americans.”

However, as times have changed and racial equality has gained more popularity, the case could be made that it no longer really does.

You see, per the state’s constitution, if neither candidate can receive both the House majority and the popular vote, the decision is given to the state House. It doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, the voters, suppressed or not, as opposers to the law claim, no longer have any say. It is then up to state elected lawmakers to decide who should win.

And in this day and age, it’s not like the House is made up of all one race or party.

The last time the House was given the choice, it was in the gubernatorial race of 1999 when both candidates were white. The House gave the seat to the Democratic candidate.

As far as the claim that the system nullifies the one-person, one-vote idea, this is the same argument that Democrats have used time and time again in the federal election when they have lost. In 2016, for example, we suddenly saw a slew of Democratic lawmakers pushing the idea that the Electoral College should be done away with because somehow it wasn’t fair. Rural citizens were coming out of the woodwork and not voting for the left.

So naturally, something must be wrong with our voting system.

But time and time again, they have failed to bring forward a respected and rational case.

Mississippi officials who oppose the law, similarly, claim unfairness and even that it’s ‘unconstitutional.’ But how can something that mirrors the federal election process that was written into our constitution by our founding fathers be unconstitutional?

Thankfully, it won’t be up to biased state officials to decide. Instead, the state is wisely giving the decision to the people. It will be interesting to see what they choose and how that decision goes over.