“Yes, Mississippi,” said one lawmaker sarcastically when it was pointed out that Mississippi is one of only three states where a run-off general election is required if a candidate for a government-wide office. State does not get a majority vote in the first election.
In all US states except Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, the person who receives the most votes wins, whether that candidate gets 45% or 51% of the vote.
The lawmaker’s sarcastic remark was made because in so many areas, such as the issue of second-round elections, the state of Magnolia is outside the mainstream.
For example, Mississippi is:
- The only state to require that two documents be notarized to vote by mail.
- Among the six states that allow no excuse for early voting.
- The only state in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic that did not allow some type of early voting for all citizens.
- The only state to see its citizens’ initiative process annulled by the courts. And it happened twice in Mississippi.
- The only state without a law on equal pay for women.
- Among the 12 states that do not provide health insurance to the working poor using primarily federal funds.
- Among less than 10 states failing to restore the right to vote to those convicted of crimes at some point after serving their sentence.
- The state with the highest state-imposed sales tax on groceries. While some local jurisdictions have higher sales taxes on groceries, there is no higher statewide food sales tax than that imposed by Mississippi.
- The state with the most lenient gun laws and the highest rate of gun deaths, according to the World Population Review.
The above list could go on except for space limitations.
It should be noted that the legislator who uttered this term actually supported the concept of runoff. People say that without a second round, candidates can be elected with a relatively small percentage of the vote, although they cannot cite many instances where this has actually happened.
Perhaps the most famous example was the 1990s, when former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura won the governorship of Minnesota with 37% of the vote. There are other ways than a second round to prevent candidates from winning with a relatively low percentage of the vote.
For example, a second round might be required if no candidate obtains at least 40% of the vote, or even 45%. Or, like some other states are doing now, pass a ranked vote where people choose their second preference and so on, and those selections count towards the vote total.
In any case, Mississippi’s new law that requires runoff is inherently better than the old system. Previously, Mississippi was the only state in which a candidate for governor and other statewide positions could garner a majority of the vote (over 50%) and not win an election. Under the old system, the Constitution required that a candidate for state-wide office win the majority of votes and garner the most votes in the majority of the 122 districts in the House. If both thresholds were not met, the State House selected the winner from the top two voters.
In 2020, the Constitution was amended by an act of the legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters to remove the provision sending elections to the House to decide.
The action marked the first time in state history where the state removed a provision from the Jim Crow Constitution of 1890 designed to prevent black people from voting without first being ordered to do so by federal justice. It should be noted, however, that a federal judge strongly suggested that he could declare the provision unconstitutional if the state did not act to remove it.
The state alone, through legislative action in the summer of 2020, also removed the state flag – the last in the country to prominently display the Confederate Battle emblem as part of its design.
So, yes Mississippi.
And there has been talk of a citizens’ initiative effort to replace the language imposing a ban on voting for life on those convicted of certain crimes. This initiative effort, of course, was canceled before it even began when the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the state initiative process was unconstitutional.
The lifetime ban on voting for certain felony convictions was enshrined in the 1890 Constitution in an attempt to prevent African Americans from voting.
The full panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering legal action that attempts to remove the lifetime ban on those convicted of all crimes except those convicted of murder and rape.
It would be another instance of federal courts doing what state leaders have refused to do.
So, again, yes Mississippi.
This analysis was carried out by Mississippi today, a non-profit news organization that covers state government, public policy, politics and culture. Bobby Harrison is the senior reporter for Capitol Hill Mississippi Today.