Mississippi could drop Jim Crow-era statewide voting process

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Honor guard members from the Mississippi National Guard practice folding the former Mississippi flag before a ceremony to retire the banner on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, inside the state Capitol in Jackson. The ceremony happened a day after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed a law that removed the flag's official status as a state symbol. The 126-year-old banner was the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. (AP Photo/Emily Wagster Pettus)

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi just ditched its Confederate-themed state flag. Later this year, the state's voters will decide whether to dump a statewide election process that dates to the Jim Crow era.

Facing pressure from a lawsuit and the possibility of action from a federal judge, legislators are putting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in November.

The amendment would simplify elections for governor and other statewide officials by erasing an Electoral College-type provision from Mississippi's 1890 constitution — one that was written to dilute Black voting power and maintain white control of state politics.

Mississippi is the only state with such a system for state elections.

If voters adopt the amendment, a statewide candidate receiving a majority of the popular vote would win. If nobody receives that in a race with at least three candidates, the top two would go to a runoff.

Legislators' final action to put the amendment on the ballot happened Monday, a day after they took historic votes to retire a 126-year-old state flag that was the last in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. Amid widespread protests over racial injustice, Mississippi faced growing pressure to drop a symbol that's widely condemned as racist.

A commission will design a new Mississippi flag without the rebel symbol and with the phrase, “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to accept or reject the new flag Nov. 3, the same day the amendment and the presidential race are on the ballot.

Mississippi Center for Justice is one of the groups representing plaintiffs in a 2019 lawsuit against the state. The center's president, Vangela M. Wade, said documents show the complex electoral process was created to uphold white supremacy.