Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans of any state in the U.S. It hasn’t elected a black official statewide in more than 130 years. Jennifer Riley Collins wants to break that streak.
To become Mississippi’s first black attorney general, Collins, a decorated U.S. Army colonel and civil rights lawyer, is getting help from the country’s first black attorney general, Eric Holder. He’s leading a lawsuit aimed at the state’s 1890 constitution, which more than a century later still has provisions expressly crafted to stop African Americans from getting elected.
If successful, the federal suit would scrap rules requiring candidates for statewide office to win both more than 50% of the popular vote and more than half the state’s 122 state legislative districts — two-thirds of which are majority white. If a candidate doesn’t meet both conditions, the state House of Representatives chooses the winner regardless of who got the most votes.