It may be hard to believe, but a Black candidate has never been elected to a statewide office in the state of Mississippi. A large reason for this is the state's complicated election procedure.
While many states use a one-step, popular voting procedure, Mississippi uses a three-step voting procedure. To be elected to a statewide office, a candidate must first win the popular vote. Then, a candidate must win a majority of the state's 122 House of Representative districts. If a candidate is unable to do both, the election is decided by Mississippi legislature. Similar to national elections, officials are not required to vote with their districts.
The complicated election procedure was designed during Reconstruction. Southern white farmers designed the system in order to disenfranchise Black voters and keep white candidates in office. More than a century later, voters in the state with the largest Black population will have an opportunity to amend this procedure.
"There are so many barriers to getting elected statewide as a minority candidate, and this is the final one. Even if you somehow cross all of the other challenges and come in around at 55% of the vote, you could be thrown out by the House of Representatives voting on a party-line basis," Former Mississippi state representative Jarvis Dortch told ABC.
In November, Mississippi voters will have the opportunity to vote on "Statewide Ballot Measure 2." If approved, statewide elections will be decided by a simple majority. In the end, residents hope that the measure would encourage more Black candidates to get involved in politics.
"Voters finally have a chance to overturn a racist 1890 election law that has no place in our 2020 Mississippi or in Mississippi of the future," Mississippi Center for Justice CEO Vangela M. Wade said.
"Jim Crow is on the ballot."
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