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Lawsuit challenging state voting law likely to be dropped, following passage of Resolution 47

Lady Justice holds the scales of justice, symbolizing fairness in the judicial process.
Lady Justice holds the scales of justice, symbolizing fairness in the judicial process.(Pixabay)
Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 at 4:24 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A lawsuit challenging Jim Crow era rules for electing statewide officials could soon be dismissed, after Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved Resolution 47, a ballot measure doing away with them.

“This should resolve the issues in the lawsuit,” said Beth Orlansky, counsel with the Mississippi Center for Justice. “Basically, this is what we asked for.”

The center for justice, along with four African American leaders from the state, filed suit in U.S. District Court last year to challenge the rule, a two-step process that was designed to disenfranchise Black voters enshrined in Mississippi’s 1890 state constitution.

The suit asked for an injunction heading into the 2019 statewide elections.

Instead, Chief District Judge Daniel Jordan held off to give the state time to change the law.

The legislature quickly moved forward, approving a resolution to amend the constitution on the 2020 ballot.

And on Tuesday, nearly 800,100 voters, 78 percent of those casting ballots, approved that measure.

“I’m glad to see the Mississippi has joined the rest of the country in being more respectful of everybody’s vote,” Orlansky said. “Basically, this is what we asked for.”

With the resolution’s passage, the two-tiered process for electing statewide officials will be stricken from the constitution and replaced with a process calling for a direct popular vote.

Under the previous rules, candidates had to win not only the popular vote, but a majority of state House districts.

Prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Mississippi’s House districts could be drawn in a way to disadvantage African Americans, meaning that even if a black person won the popular vote, he or she would not have been able to clear the second step in the electoral process.

The statute was included as part of the state’s constitution, which was written at a time when Mississippi had a majority Black population.

Under the new rules, candidates elected to statewide office are selected through the popular vote, and only the popular vote.

If no one candidate wins a majority in the first race, the top two vote-getters go to a runoff.

“The method for conducting elections going forward will be under the new provisions passed yesterday,” Orlansky said. "It officially becomes part of the constitution. The people have spoken.”

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