Miss. voters could change the way state leaders are elected on November 3rd

Voters will vote on House Concurrent Resolution Number 47 on November 3rd.
Mississippi voters will vote on House Concurrent Resolution Number 47 on November 3rd.
Updated: Oct. 26, 2020 at 7:23 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - When it comes to electing state leaders such as governor and lieutenant governor, Mississippi has its own version of an electoral college.

A candidate must receive the majority vote, plus the majority vote from the 122 House districts.

If they don’t receive both, the House of Representatives will then elect a candidate.

However, next Tuesday, voters decide whether to keep or do away with this rule.

They’ll be voting on House Concurrent Resolution Number 47.

“What the proposed amendment would is do away with that electoral college system and simply have a vote," said Dr. Glenn Antizzo, associate professor of political science at Mississippi College. "If somebody gets a majority, congratulations, you are the winner, but if nobody gets the majority, then we would take the top two vote-getters, regardless of what share of the vote they got, and we would put them in a runoff election a few weeks later.”

Also known as the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, it’s a rule that’s been in place for more than a century and first came about during the Jim Crow Era.

"It was designed to disenfranchise African-American candidates or pro-civil rights and voting rights candidates from being able to win a statewide election,” said Nathan Shrader, chairman of the department of government and politics at Millsaps College.

For years, many have argued for a change to the rule, stating it leaves too much power in the hands of the legislators and not voters.

“If democracy is having people choose, and at the end of the day it’s the state legislature choosing, in a sense it’s almost like an insurance policy for whichever side holds the majority in the legislature,” said Dr. Antizzo.

“My greatest fear is that if this passes it’ll be another 100 years before there’s an appetite politically in Mississippi to go back and fix it for real, to do away with the runoff piece too and just let the person with the most votes win the election, which would be fair and which would be the true way we’d want to do this in our system," said Shrader.

This rule came into play during the 1999 gubernatorial election between Democratic candidate Ronnie Musgrove, and Republican candidate Michael Parker.

“Neither candidate got a majority of the votes, and they split the districts right down the middle, 50 percent for one, 50 percent for the other, so it then goes to the state legislature," said Dr. Antizzo.

The house, which was majority democrats at the time, gave the nod to Musgrove since he had more statewide votes than his opponent by a slight margin.

Mississippians will vote on this item on November 3rd.

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