JACKSON • The Mississippi Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution that aims to remove a requirement that candidates for statewide office must win a majority of state House districts.
State Sen. Kathy Chism, R-New Albany, presented House Concurrent Resolution 47 to the Senate, which, if it becomes law, would remove the electoral vote hurdle candidates currently have to clear.
The Mississippi Constitution currently states that all statewide candidates must win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of the state’s 122 House districts. If no candidate receives both a majority of the votes and a majority of the House districts, the election is then thrown to the state House of Representatives to choose the winner.
The electoral requirement is largely viewed as a Jim Crow-era policy that was designed to keep black Mississippians from getting elected to statewide office. The resolution presented by Chism would amend the state’s Constitution to remove this House districts requirement.
“If no person receives a majority of the votes, then a runoff election shall be held between the two persons who received the highest number of votes under procedures prescribed by the Legislature in general law,” the resolution reads.
In the rare situation that two people in a statewide election would tie, the election would then be thrown to the House to vote on the winner.
The last time the House decided a statewide election was in 1999 when neither Ronnie Musgrove, the Democratic nominee for governor, nor Mike Parker, the Republican nominee for governor, received an outright majority of the total votes cast. Musgrove received 49.6% of the vote. and Parker received 48.5% of the vote. Two minor party candidates received 1.9% of the vote.
The Mississippi House voted 86-36 along party lines to elect Musgrove as governor, which is the last time a Democrat was elected governor in the state.
Both chambers of the Legislature must pass the resolution by a two-thirds majority. In the House, 81 members must approve the resolution, and in the Senate, 34 lawmakers must approve the resolution.
The resolution was filed by state Rep. Jim Beckett, R-Bruce. In March, the House initially approved the resolution by a vote of 114-2. Now, the Senate has unanimously approved the bill, but has amended the version that the House passed.
Since an amendment was passed, the measure now heads back to the House for approval. The House will now vote to either approve or reject the changes in the Senate. If a two-thirds majority in both chambers approve of the bill, the resolution would then be placed on the ballot in November for citizens to vote on.