WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flash Flood Watch - Flood Advisory View Alerts

Mississippi: Election lawsuit is not about voting rights

Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson

Attorneys defending Mississippi say a lawsuit that challenges the state's system of choosing a governor is about "partisan politics," not about protecting African Americans' voting rights.

Posted: Jul 16, 2019 10:27 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys defending Mississippi say a lawsuit that challenges the state's system of choosing a governor is about "partisan politics," not about protecting African Americans' voting rights.

The election-year lawsuit was filed May 30 in federal court by four black plaintiffs with backing from Eric Holder, who was the first African American U.S. attorney general and is now chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

It says a provision in Mississippi's 1890 constitution "has its basis in racism," requiring candidates for governor or other statewide offices to win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of the 122 Mississippi House districts. Without both majorities, the election is decided by the state House.

The provision was written at a time that white politicians across the South were enacting Jim Crow laws to erase black political power that had been gained during Reconstruction. No other state in the U.S. uses such a method to choose governor.

The 1999 governor's race was decided by the House after nobody received the required majorities in a four-person race. The top two candidates were white, and House members chose the Democrat who had received the most votes. The House was then controlled by Democrats and is now controlled by Republicans.

The lawsuit names Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn and the state's top elections official, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, as defendants. Both are Republican.

"Neither the speaker nor the secretary wish to defend the motivations behind a law allegedly enacted with racial animus," Trey Jones, a private attorney representing the state, wrote in court papers filed Monday. "However, both the allegations in the complaint and the timing of its filing demonstrate that this lawsuit is not about race, and it is not about vindicating alleged wrongs to plaintiffs' right to vote — it's about partisan politics."

Jones wrote that decisions about Mississippi's voting system should be made by the state, not by a federal court. He also wrote that Gunn and Hosemann should not be sued. He said Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood should instead be named a defendant because "he has a number of duties relevant to constitutional challenges."

Hood is running for governor this year and is not representing the state in the lawsuit. If he wins the party nomination during the August primary, he would be on the November general election ballot and his campaign could be affected by the outcome of the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, Margaret Ann Morgan, has said the office would not answer questions about the lawsuit because of "attorney/client privilege." She has not answered the question about whether the attorney general's office is not handling the case because of Hood's candidacy.

The current governor, Republican Phil Bryant, could not seek a third term. Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Hood have raised the most money in the governor's race.

The lawsuit notes that black voters are highly concentrated in certain Mississippi House districts and constitute a majority of the voting-age population in 42 of them. Mississippi's white residents overwhelmingly vote Republican, while its black residents overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Democrats. About 38% of the state is black.

Because of the racially polarized and concentrated voting, a candidate preferred by white voters could win a majority of the House districts without winning the statewide vote, the lawsuit says. It asserts that a candidate preferred by black voters would have to get more than 55% of the popular vote to meet the House-district requirement.

To date, no Mississippi candidate who won the most votes for a statewide office has been prevented from taking office because of the other requirements.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 473413

Reported Deaths: 9214
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32339474
Hinds30703575
DeSoto29814346
Jackson23263336
Rankin21111358
Lee14600217
Madison14043265
Jones13165218
Forrest12953233
Lauderdale11418297
Lowndes10249175
Lamar10048128
Pearl River8737209
Lafayette8078136
Hancock7324111
Washington6837147
Oktibbeha6820118
Neshoba6404201
Monroe6372158
Warren6326161
Pontotoc610393
Panola6071124
Bolivar6016143
Marshall5972118
Union564086
Pike5491133
Lincoln5232130
Alcorn520888
George457868
Scott451993
Leflore4401140
Prentiss437276
Itawamba436198
Tippah436180
Simpson4268111
Copiah425586
Wayne424863
Tate4234100
Adams4219114
Yazoo415886
Sunflower4088104
Covington407391
Marion4032100
Leake393185
Coahoma388198
Newton364474
Grenada3517101
Stone345657
Tishomingo324888
Attala321185
Jasper310262
Winston300391
Clay288273
Chickasaw282164
Clarke277487
Calhoun259739
Holmes259485
Smith243947
Yalobusha216747
Tallahatchie215649
Walthall205557
Greene204045
Lawrence203831
Perry196453
Amite193751
Webster191941
Noxubee174538
Montgomery169853
Jefferson Davis165541
Carroll159937
Tunica148434
Benton139433
Kemper137439
Claiborne125634
Choctaw124925
Humphreys123337
Franklin115227
Quitman101825
Wilkinson99835
Jefferson86632
Sharkey62120
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 768301

Reported Deaths: 13209
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1093481727
Mobile699891179
Madison48418589
Baldwin35707452
Shelby35193291
Tuscaloosa33029512
Montgomery32582664
Lee21908204
Calhoun20140377
Morgan19351318
Etowah18583433
Marshall17272259
Houston16139353
St. Clair14956276
Limestone14129180
Cullman14069235
Elmore14010245
Lauderdale13128272
Talladega12399215
DeKalb11890229
Walker10231312
Autauga9493127
Blount9418149
Jackson9115136
Coffee8646161
Colbert8324169
Dale8284159
Escambia6456106
Tallapoosa6394168
Covington6313157
Chilton6243133
Russell591654
Franklin563597
Chambers5240132
Marion4628115
Dallas4626178
Clarke451471
Pike450091
Geneva4252106
Winston407987
Lawrence4046102
Bibb396177
Barbour338968
Marengo320981
Monroe311547
Butler309783
Pickens298769
Randolph294055
Henry293856
Hale286081
Cherokee279850
Fayette272271
Washington243545
Crenshaw232265
Clay221561
Macon214454
Cleburne209748
Lamar187839
Conecuh177139
Lowndes169056
Coosa163631
Wilcox154335
Bullock147142
Perry134235
Sumter123335
Greene119241
Choctaw72325
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 74°
Columbus
Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
Starkville
Cloudy
84° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 104°
Occasional areas of rain and some scattered thunderstorms will be in store for most of the weekend. However, good news by later sections of next week, as cooler and drier air will work its way into our weather forecast.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather