Posted on August 5, 2019

Battle Brews to Dump Jim Crow-Era Voting Rules in Deep South

Margaret Newkirk and Erik Larson, Bloomberg, August 2, 2019

Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans of any state in the U.S. It hasn’t elected a black official statewide in more than 130 years. Jennifer Riley Collins wants to break that streak.

To become Mississippi’s first black attorney general, Collins, a decorated U.S. Army colonel and civil rights lawyer, is getting help from the country’s first black attorney general, Eric Holder. He’s leading a lawsuit aimed at the state’s 1890 constitution, which more than a century later still has provisions expressly crafted to stop African Americans from getting elected.

If successful, the federal suit would scrap rules requiring candidates for statewide office to win both more than 50% of the popular vote and more than half the state’s 122 state legislative districts — two-thirds of which are majority white. If a candidate doesn’t meet both conditions, the state House of Representatives chooses the winner regardless of who got the most votes.

{snip} In Mississippi, racial animus isn’t just a subtext. It’s codified in the text that governs the state, lawyers and state politicians say.

“Our system was specifically designed to minimize the chances of an African-American being elected to statewide office in Mississippi,’’ said Democratic House Minority Leader David Baria.

The U.S. Supreme Court blessed partisan-drawn political boundaries in a June ruling, six years after the court weakened minority-voting protections across the U.S. But Mississippi stands out as an example of the consequences of gerrymandering on steroids.