/Mississippians have opportunity to change Jim Crow-era law without being forced by federal judge

Mississippians have opportunity to change Jim Crow-era law without being forced by federal judge

Jordan refused to issue a temporary injunction blocking constitutional provisions that allow statewide elections to be sent to the House. The House will decide who gets the majority vote and who has the most votes from a majority of the 122 House district. The provisions were challenged in a lawsuit filed earlier this year. They were deemed unconstitutional due to the fact that they dilute black votes. These provisions were included in the Jim Crow-era Constitution of 1890 in order to prevent African Americans from being elected to statewide office. It was clear from the narratives that this was the intention. This fact was not hidden by the framers. Jackson County Republican Secretary-elect Michael Watson has stated that it is past time to eliminate the provisions from the Constitution. He stated that he would work with the Legislature to accomplish that. Watson stated recently that while the history and intent of these provisions send a negative message about the state, he doesn’t intend to change them because of their message. “I want them to be changed because it’s right to do so.” The majority, but not all of the discriminatory provisions in the state Constitution have been removed. The ban on interracial marriage was repealed by voters in 1987. It was repealed by a narrow margin of 264,064 to 246,135 votes. Provisions that required segregated schools, a poll tax, and other discriminatory actions had been removed before then. In most cases, federal law or rulings by federal courts had already rendered these provisions unconstitutional prior to the Mississippi Constitution’s amendment. In a Virginia case, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 struck down a ban on interracial marriage. The ban on interracial marriage was already unenforceable by 1987, when it was removed from Mississippi’s Constitution. Mississippians may have had the rare opportunity to repeal discriminatory laws without having to be forced by federal judges. Jordan presented oral arguments on the matter before the Nov. 5, elections. He indicated that, based upon past court rulings and precedents, the provision to throw the election into the House if the candidate with the highest number of votes in the House districts was unlikely to be constitutional. He waited to rule on the matter. Watson stated, “I presume the judge would love the state to address it.” Watson said, “It’s something I believe he would prefer.” The House electoral provisions have not been a factor in Mississippi elections for years. The general election, which is the only time that the provisions came into effect in Mississippi’s history, was an informality for most of its history. Since the Republican Party didn’t field any competitive candidates, it was not a formality. In the 1990s, as the Republican Party emerged, the provisions were made effective in three consecutive elections: one for governor and two for lieutenant- governor. The electoral provisions were again rendered meaningless when the Democrats failed to field competitive candidates in state elections. Many believed that the provision could again be a factor in the race for governor between Republican Tate Reeves and Democrat Jim Hood. Reeves won by a wide margin, but the provision was not a factor. There was real momentum for changing the provisions after the 1999 election between Democrat Ronnie Musgrove (the top vote-getter) was held in the House. The Legislature couldn’t agree on how to proceed if there was no majority vote. Some people wanted the candidate to receive a majority of the votes in order to win the position. Some wanted a runoff. It’s not easy to amend the Constitution. To change the state Constitution, it takes either a two-thirds majority in both chambers or passage by voters. Watson answered that he was open to a system in which a person could be elected without a majority vote, or that he would prefer a runoff for a winner if there were no majority. It is important that all stakeholders are involved. The Legislature will drive the train. However, I look forward to being involved. Georgia is the only state to offer a runoff in case no candidate wins a majority of the vote in the general elections. Louisiana has both Republican and Democratic candidates on the same ballot. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff takes place.