Lawsuit Alleges Mississippi uses Racially Discriminatory Jim Crow laws to Choose Statewide Officials.
Jim Crow laws that date back to post-reconstruction are still in use in Mississippi today. In Mississippi, in the year 2019, a candidate can win the majority of the vote for Governor and still be denied the right to serve as Governor. That scheme was placed into the Mississippi Constitution in 1890, at the height of the post-reconstruction period in the American South when many Jim Crow laws were enacted. African Americans were amassing political power in the South during the Reconstruction period which followed the end of slavery. However, Southern white politicians, the former slave-owning class, sought to suppress the black voting power that had emerged during Reconstruction. The use of Jim Crow laws was a central part of the strategy to re-subjugate African Americans.
Law Requires Statewide Candidates to Win Both Popular and A 62 of 122 Counties
In May of 2019, a court action was filed by three African American residents of Mississippi seeking to block the state’s use of racist jim crow laws to elect the governor and additional statewide officials. The federal court action takes aim at Mississippi’s exclusive requirement that applicants for statewide office must win both most the popular vote and at least 62 of the 122 state House of Representatives districts. If zero applicant fulfills both requirements, a statewide selection is set by the Mississippi House, and representatives aren’t obligated to vote as their districts did.
Former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove Chosen by State House in 1999
Such instances are rare. Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened in 1999, when the state House chose between two white applicants who received the most votes in a four-person competition for governor. Ronnie Musgrove was selected to be Governor by the state House. It happened in 1999, and it can happen again.
Election Scheme Favors Whites over Blacks
However, Mississippi happens to be the state with the largest percentage of African Americans in the population. About 38% of the state is black, according to the U.S. Census. Because of the racially polarized and concentrated voting, a candidate preferred by white voters could win a majority of the House districts without winning the statewide vote
White Mississippians Control Who Gets Elected Statewide
The federal government lawsuit said the machine “intentionally and efficiently dilutes African American voting power.””This racist electoral scheme accomplished, and continues to accomplish, the framers’ goals by tying the statewide election procedure to the power structure of the statehouse,” the lawsuit says. “As long as white Mississippians remained in charge of the lower house of the state legislature, they will also maintain effective control of the elections of statewide officials.
“The litigation seeks an order from the judge to prohibit Mississippi from using such jim crow laws in the 2019 elections. It generally does not recommend a different way of determining winners. However, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said a judge could order Mississippi to do what most states already do – “count all the votes and the person who gets the greatest number of votes wins.”
Eric Holder Backing Lawsuit
Holder is chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, whose affiliated foundation is providing financial and legal backing for the lawsuit. “The election system in Mississippi has really kind of perpetuated a history of racial discrimination that finally has to come to an end,” Holder told AP.
Racially Polarized Voting
The lawsuit notes that black voters are highly concentrated in some Mississippi House districts. They hold a majority of the voting-age population in 42 of the 122 districts. It also notes that Mississippi’s white residents overwhelmingly vote for Republicans while its black residents overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. Jim crow laws like the one being challenged have historically been used in comination with racially polarized voting, or racial bloc voting, to deny African American voters the right to elect the candidates of their choice.
Four African Americans Seeking Statewide Office in 2019
The federal judge acknowledged the urgency of a lawsuit that is filed during an election year challenging the way in which Mississippi elects its governor and other statewide officials. In the 2019 elections, there are four white democratic candidates and four African American candidates. The African Americans seeking the offices of Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, and Commissioner of Insurance are Jennifer Riley Collins, Johnny DePree, Addie Lee Green, and Robert Amos, respectively. Current Attorney General, Jim Hood is seeking to be elected Governor.
Constitutional Provision Dates back to Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws
The lawsuit seeks to end, once and for all, a system targeted at preventing the election of African Americans seeking statewide office. The Mississippi constitutional provision created in 1890, at the height of Post-Reconstruction, mandates that statewide candidates must win most the popular vote and most of the 122 Mississippi state house districts. If no one wins both majorities, the election is set by the Home. The provision, and many of the discriminatory jim crow laws were written in Mississippi at the same time that white politicians all over the South had been enacting Jim Crow laws and regulations to erase the gains in black political power that were obtained during Reconstruction.
Mississippi has a reputation nationally as a state with an intense history of racial subjugation of African Americans. Its jim crow laws are well documented throughout history. No other state in the U.S. uses this method to elect statewide officials. Mississippi provides August primaries and a November election for governor and various other offices, and the lawsuit seeks to block the two-pronged election technique from being utilized this year. State lawyers at first acquired a June 20 deadline to react to the lawsuit but sought additional time because they stated the fit handles “complex and important problems.” Jordan granted an expansion, setting up deadlines of July 15 for the condition to react to plaintiffs’ general arguments and July 20 for the state to react to plaintiffs’ demand for an initial injunction that would block the multi-pronged election process from being used this year. “The Court understands the time-sensitive nature of the case and anticipates that it too will need time to check out the merits once fully briefed,” Jordan wrote June 20. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the initial African American to carry that job, is normally chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, whose affiliated foundation offers economic and legal support for the lawsuit. Fourth-term Mississippi Lawyer General Jim Hood is normally working for governor this season, and if he had been to earn the Democratic principal in August, his advertising campaign could possibly be damaged by the results of the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for any office, Margaret Ann Morgan, stated Thursday that she’d check up on why Hood or associate attorneys general aren’t representing the state, because they normally would in lawsuits. Morgan stated in a statement Fri: “Pursuant to the guidelines on attorney/customer privilege, our workplace will avoid commenting.” She didn’t answer the question approximately whether the lawyer general’s office isn’t handling the case due to Hood’s candidacy.The longtime chairman of the Mississippi Home Elections Committee, Republican Rep. Costs Denny, stated that during his 32 years in office, there’s been no serious hard work to change Mississippi’s approach to electing statewide officials.
Due to the racially polarized and concentrated voting, an applicant recommended by light voters could win most the home districts without winning the statewide vote, the lawsuit says. However it asserts a choice recommended by dark voters would need to get a lot more than 55% of the favorite vote to meet the House-district requirement.
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There have been 64 governors since 1817. Of the 64 officeholders, six were Republican, 52 were Democrat, one was Whig, one was Union-Democratic, one was Provisional, one was Military and three are unfamiliar.
1 of 3FILE – In this April 3, 2019 file picture, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. speaks during the National Action Network Convention in New York. A new federal lawsuit being filed Thursday, May 30 by three African American occupants of Mississippi seeks to block what it phone calls the state’s racist method of electing the governor and additional statewide officials. The lawsuit requires goal at Mississippi’s unique requirement that candidates for statewide office must win both a majority of the popular vote and at least 62 of the 122 state Home of Representatives districts. Holder stated a judge could purchase Mississippi to accomplish what most states currently do – “count all the votes and the person who gets the greatest number of votes wins.” (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
The newspaper also reported that Pete Perry, the chair of the Republican Party in Hinds County, discovered a glitch that may have improperly allowed Hinds County residents who voted a Democratic ticket in the Aug. 6 primary to vote in the Republican runoff.
“This is not a theoretical thing,” Holder said. “We have seen no statewide African American elected to office since this was enacted, in spite of the fact that Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans of any state in the country.”
The lawsuit says only four states – Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi and Vermont – require a candidate to win a majority of the popular vote to become governor. Arizona and Georgia have runoffs, if needed. In Vermont, the state House and Senate decide the winner if nobody receives a majority of the popular vote.
But that was before the dramatic Southern realignment that has taken place in recent years, and Democrats still controlled a huge majority in the state House. Musgrove won 86 of the 122 members of the state House, including 25 votes from representatives in districts Parker won.
Mr. Reeves faced a formidable Democratic candidate, Jim Hood, an anti-abortion, pro-gun populist who currently serves as the state’s attorney general, in the Nov. 5, 2019, general election.
“This racist electoral scheme achieved, and continues to accomplish, the framers’ goals by tying the statewide election process to the energy structure of the home,” the lawsuit says. “As long as white Mississippians managed the House, they might also control the elections of statewide officials.”
Yet the lawsuit says a candidate preferred by black voters would need to win at least 55 percent of the statewide vote to win a majority of state House districts and satisfy the state’s constitutional requirements. Holder said that violates the equal protection requirement of the U.S. Constitution by granting greater weight to some votes over others. He said Mississippi’s requirements make it tougher for black candidates to win statewide office and can have “an inhibiting influence on African Americans who might consider operating for statewide workplace.””This is simply not a theoretical issue,” Holder said. “We’ve noticed no statewide African American elected to workplace since this is enacted, regardless of the actual fact that Mississippi gets the highest percentage of African People in America of any condition in the United States.”African American applicants have faced additional hurdles in Mississippi politics. Few black occupants were authorized to vote in the condition from after Reconstruction before mid-1960s due to poll taxes and violence. Black applicants also have had difficulty raising cash for statewide elections. Some African American applicants are operating for governor and additional offices this season but have gathered less money than most of the white applicants. The lawsuit said only four states – Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi and Vermont – need a candidate to win most the favorite vote to be governor. Arizona and Georgia possess runoffs, if required. In Vermont, the state House and Senate decide the winner if nobody receives a majority of the popular vote. Mississippi Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn, who’s named as a defendant in the lawsuit, declined to comment. The longtime chairman of the House Elections Committee, Republican Rep. Bill Denny of Jackson, said that during his 32 years in office, there has been no serious effort to change Mississippi’s method of electing statewide officials.”I’m comfortable with it,” Denny said of the current system.In Mississippi, four candidates ran in the 1999 governor’s election, and the race had to be decided by the state House in January 2000. Democrat Ronnie Musgrove received 49.5 percent of the popular vote and Republican Mike Parker received 48.6 percent, with two little-known candidates splitting the rest. Musgrove and Parker, who are both white, each won 61 House districts. The State House was then managed by Democrats, and representatives voted 86-36 to elect Musgrove governor, with some lawmakers stating they backed him because he led Parker by about 8,300 votes statewide.