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Mississippians end Jim Crow era voting law

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Mississippi voters overwhelming chose to end a Jim Crow era voting restriction Tuesday.

More than 78% of the state’s voters said ‘yes’ to Initiative 47, which proposed ending the state’s system of electing statewide officials.

Under Mississippi law, candidates don’t only have to win the majority of votes, they also have to win in the majority of the state’s House districts. In a race where no candidates win both, the decision then goes to the Mississippi House of Representatives. The law was put on the books to ensure majority Black voting districts would not hold sway in the selection of the state’s high offices.

Under Initiative 47, this pseudo Electoral College will be abolished, and the popular vote will decide the winner in statewide races. If no candidate wins the majority of votes in the state, a run-off election will be held.

The initiative came about as a result of legislation that proposed amending the state constitution, House Concurrent Resolution 47. A constitutional amendment proposed by the legislature requires a majority of Mississippi voters approve the change, which they did Tuesday.

The last time an election for a statewide office was disputed under the old law was the governor’s race in 1999. Neither candidate, Democrat Ronnie Musgrove nor Republican Mike Parker, earned a clear 50% plus one popular majority (although Musgrove had a slight lead), and they split the House districts evenly at 61 each. The Mississippi House of Representatives, then in Democratic control, put Musgrove into office.

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