Under present state law, as written in Mississippi’s 1890 Constitution, winners of state-level, statewide offices must receive both an outright most the popular vote and a majority of the state’s 122 House districts. If no candidate fulfills both of these requirements, the Mississippi House of Representatives, which can be currently controlled by Republicans, determines the winner.
The suit said the distribution of voters by race through state House districts means a candidate preferred by White voters can win nearly all districts with a reduced share of the overall vote than a candidate preferred by Black voters. It described the provision turning over the election to their state House as a “failsafe” for White people in the state.
US District Judge Daniel Jordan III in November wrote that he had “grave concern that at least the Electoral-Vote Rule is unconstitutional.” The the following month, Jordan ruled to put the lawsuit on hold in order to supply the state Legislature time to remedy the machine on their own prior to the next statewide races in 2023.
If passed, the constitutional amendment, first introduced by Republican state Rep. Jim Beckett in February, could serve as that remedy.
CNN reached out to Hosemann, now Mississippi’s lieutenant governor, and Gunn for comment. CNN also reached out to state Reps. Gregory Holloway and Omeria Scott and state Sens. David Jordan and Hob Bryan, who were the sole Democrats one of the few lawmakers who voted against putting the proposed amendment on the ballot in November.
Mississippi could be the only state to exhibit this type of system for state elections, according to Beth Orlansky, advocacy director of the Mississippi Center for Justice, one of many groups representing plaintiffs in the 2019 lawsuit from the state. The group hailed the vote and vowed to keep on with their split up federal challenge of the state’s felon voting rights ban.
The National Redistricting Foundation, an affiliate of an anti-gerrymandering group light emitting diode by former Attorney General Eric Holder, who is supporting the federal lawsuit, said that the Mississippi state Legislature vote is welcome and long overdue.
“As our country reviews its past, I remain hopeful that we will continue to address these unfair, painful parts of our history and set in place laws that live up to America’s founding ideals,” Holder said.