A group of black voters represented by a foundation affiliated with former Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee is challenging Mississippi’s Jim-Crow era laws written to place black candidates for statewide office at a disadvantage.
According to ThinkProgress, four voters filed suit with the U.S. District Court of Southern Mississippi Thursday, challenging election rules from the state’s 1980 Constitution.
In Mississippi, candidates for statewide office must win a majority of the state popular vote and a majority of House districts. The state Constitution gives the state legislature the power to pick a winner if a candidate fails to clear both paths to victory.
Under the current system, with black residents packed mainly into small legislative districts, Mississippi’s majority-white population regularly outvotes its concentrated black constituency. When the laws were conceived, however, black people represented the majority of the population. Despite the highest percentage of black residents of any state, no black Mississippian has won a statewide election since 1890.
“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,” the lawsuit states.
“This discriminatory electoral scheme achieved, and continues to achieve, the framers’ goals,” the suit continued, “by tying the statewide-election process to the power structure of the House. So long as white Mississippians controlled the House, they would also control the elections of statewide officials.”
The challenge comes months before the state gubernatorial election in November, which could give the winning side the upper hand in the state’s redistricting, set for a 2021 kickoff.