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Voting Rights: A Challenge To MS’s Segregation-Era System Of Electing A Governor

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June 3, 2019 1:15 p.m.

A lawsuit backed by Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee was filed in Mississippi Thursday challenging the state’s system of electing governors and other statewide office-holders. The system requires that the winner receive a majority of statewide votes but also a majority of votes in a majority of house districts — with the Mississippi House deciding the election if no candidate clears both of those bars. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that the segregation-era system — under which no African American has been elected to statewide office despite Mississippi having the highest percentage of African Americans in the country — amounts to racial discrimination.

The big news last week was a major bombshell dropped Thursday in the Census citizenship question case, which the Supreme Court is expected to decide in the coming weeks. The challengers have accused two witnesses, who were involved in the administration’s efforts to get the question added, of lying in their depositions. Their allegedly false statements covered up the role that a now deceased GOP gerrymandering consultant — who in 2015 wrote a secret study concluding that a citizenship question was needed to boost electoral advantages of Republicans and non-Hispanic whites — played in the push. It’s not clear yet how the challengers will get the evidence in front of the Supreme Court, but they have a hearing about their claims in front of the trial court judge on Wednesday. The DOJ is denying the allegations.

Two major pieces of voting rights legislation passed by Nevada’s legislature met mixed fates on the governor’s desk. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed into law a bill restoring voting rights of some 77,000 ex-felons. He, however, vetoed a bill putting Nevada in the national popular vote compact, which would award Nevada’s electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular once enough states joined the compact to give it 270 electoral votes. The effort is designed to nullify the power of the Electoral College.

In Texas, the top state election official who was behind a faulty list of alleged noncitizens voters was finally forced to resign last week when the legislature refused to make his interim appointment permanent. Two-thirds of the legislature is required to confirm cabinet positions, meaning Democrats had enough votes to block through the end of the legislative session the confirmation of secretary of state David Whitley. There are signs they may already facing retaliation, as Gov. Greg Abbott (R), to whom Whitley previously served as chief-of-staff, vetoed last week several bipartisan bills that were expected to easily become law.

Michigan’s Attorney General issued an opinion last month concluding a law that would make ballot initiative drives more burdensome was illegal. The law, passed by Republicans in a lame duck session last year, imposes a new signature-per-congressional district requirement, which the attorney general found to be unconstitutional.

A majority black county in Georgia is considering closing polling places in 2020, according to letter from a voting rights groups, after its plans to do so in 2018 prompted widespread condemnation and were ultimately reversed. The letter, from Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to the County Board of Commissioners, says that a proposal to close certain polling places came up at an election board meeting in April.

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