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SPLC Action Fund: After Flag Vote, Mississippi Legislators Take Additional Steps to Help "Dismantle Vestiges of White Supremacy"

HCR 47 puts a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to end the undemocratic two-tier election process for statewide offices in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. – The following statement is regarding the passage of the HCR 47 conference report yesterday in the Mississippi Legislature, which will put a constitutional amendment on the November 2020 ballot to end the two-tiered system of electing statewide officials. The measure does not need the governor’s signature before going to the voters. If Mississippi voters pass the amendment this fall, a future candidate for statewide office need only win the popular vote to be deemed the election winner. Currently, a candidate must win both the popular vote and a majority (with a plurality) of the vote in the state’s House of Representative districts. If those two tiers are not met, the outcome is determined by the House of Representatives, where legislators are not held to their district’s vote. This statement can be attributed to Brandon Jones, Mississippi policy director for the SPLC Action Fund

“Yesterday's vote is a significant step forward in ending a Mississippi law written into the 1890 state constitution with the expressed intention to protect white political power in the state and disenfranchise Black voters. If voters pass this measure in the fall, statewide offices in Mississippi can be rooted in a more democratic process, and voters can cast ballots without fear of a House of Representatives vote in Jackson overturning the will of the people. 

“It has taken decades of work to ensure adequate representation of Black Mississippians in the political process and recognition of Black Mississippians as essential to Mississippi’s future. Both last night’s vote and the vote this weekend to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag work in tandem to dismantle vestiges of white supremacy in Mississippi. In taking these votes, Mississippi legislators clearly took the lead from the thousands of Mississippians who have organized this year and for generations to battle systemic racism and lead the state to a brighter future.

“Reaching true equal representation will take more organizing and more work, however. The state still has on the books a lifetime voting ban that originated in the 1890 constitution for citizens with certain felony convictions. This law disparately affects Black Mississippians and is currently being challenged in federal court, along with the state’s rarely used legislative re-enfranchisement scheme. Currently in the state, there is no online voter registration, no automatic voter registration or same-day registration, no early voting, and no universal access to absentee voting. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, despite disproportionately harming and killing Black Mississippians, has not prompted in Mississippi the kinds of reforms taking place elsewhere to ensure no voter has to choose between their health and participating in the democratic process. There are common-sense ways to fix all of these problems with democracy in the state.

“Yesterday was an essential victory in the fight to achieve a full democracy in Mississippi. We look forward to voters in the fall hopefully agreeing with legislators and activists that a racist 1890 election law has no place in 2020 Mississippi.”