A Jim-Crow era provision in Mississippi’s constitution granting lawmakers the power to choose the winner of statewide elections under certain circumstances may stay in place for now, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
HuffPost reported that the “disputed provision was implemented in the 19th century as a way of enabling white lawmakers to dilute the power of newly-enfranchised African Americans in the state” by requiring candidates to win the popular vote as well as a majority of the legislative districts.
And if neither candidate accomplishes the feat? The provision allows state lawmakers to choose the winner.
HuffPost noted that the provision has rarely been used since it was implemented, but U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III expressed “grave concern” that its requirements are unconstitutional.
Still, Jordan opted against stepping in, citing the potential harm of disrupting the election process on the eve of election day.
“Absent some impact on the election results, the constitutional injury caused by discarded votes is outweighed by the harm a preliminary injunction would cause when the Court attempts to craft a new method for electing statewide officers on the eve of the election,” Jordan wrote in his ruling.
However, the judge said he would move to hold an expedited trial if the election winner ends up determined by the state House, in which case a “far more tangible injury could become imminent.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four black Mississippi voters, HuffPost reported, as Democrats remain concerned that Attorney General Jim Hood could take the statewide vote but fail to capture a majority of the legislative districts.
“While African Americans make up 38% of the statewide population, they only constitute a majority of the population in 42 of 122 state House districts,” the publication noted, adding that “There has not been a black statewide elected official in over a century.”