The winner of Mississippi’s gubernatorial election Tuesday will not only have to capture the state’s popular vote, but will also have to prevail in the state’s unique election process for electing a governor and other statewide officials that was established during the Jim Crow era.
Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, is running against Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat. While Hood already faces a challenge in capturing the state’s popular vote, the state’s unusual election process could also complicate his path to the governorship.
The process: A candidate needs a majority in the popular vote and needs to win a majority of Mississippi’s 122 state house districts. If no candidate fulfills both of these requirements, the Mississippi House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, selects the winner.
Some background: The election process, as written in the state’s constitution in 1890, was enacted at a time when white Southerners were putting in place laws to deny blacks political power.
Critics of the system have said it “dilutes” the African American vote in favor of white districts and officeholders.
A federal judge ruled Friday that the unique election process will remain in place for Tuesday’s election despite a lawsuit filed earlier this year by four African American Mississippi voters against Mississippi GOP Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Mississippi GOP House Speaker Philip Gunn, accusing the state of violating the 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution as well as a section of the Voting Rights Act.
While Mississippi has the highest share of African Americans of any state in the country, not a single African American has won state-level, statewide office since Reconstruction.