Federal judge hears arguments in lawsuit challenging Mississippi election law

Federal judge hears arguments in lawsuit challenging Mississippi election law


A federal judge heard arguments yesterday in a case challenging Mississippi’s election law.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III is aware of the time constrictions of the case, which was filed last June. Now, less than four weeks from the Nov. 5 general election, the case has yet to be decided, and Jordan did not indicate when his ruling could be expected.

Mississippi’s unique election law requires candidates running for statewide offices must win not only the popular vote across the state but must also win in a majority of the state’s 122 house districts. If a candidate fails to win both, the decision goes to the state House of Representatives.

Opponents of the law say the mechanism, which dates back to 1890 and the Jim Crow era, prevents African Americans from ever being the deciding factor in statewide elections.

“The architects of this system for electing candidates to statewide office had one goal in mind: entrench white control of State government by ensuring that the newly enfranchised African-American citizens … would never have an equal opportunity to translate their numerical strength into political power,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in the suit.

While the state has the highest percentage of African Americans in the nation, they are concentrated in 25 counties and 42 legislative districts. The balance of Mississippi’s 82 counties and 122 districts are majority white and vote majority Republican.

The result may be that in the upcoming election, any Democrat winning the popular vote for statewide office will find that the majority Republican state House of Representatives will decide for the Republican candidate instead.

Recent polls show Democrat Jim Hood with a narrow lead over Republican Tate Reeves in the election for governor, so the antiquated law may be pivotal in that election.

In addition to the governor’s race, November’s election will also decide the state’s next lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The Republican defendants in the case, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn, want Jordan to dismiss the case.