Secretary of State-elect Michael Watson says he will push to change Mississippi’s controversial two-part election process for statewide candidates.
“I’m definitely supportive of moving away from the current system,” the Republican state senator told the Clarion Ledger Tuesday as he discussed priorities for his new job that begins next year.
Mississippi’s Jim Crow-era election process requires statewide candidates to clear two hurdles to win office — a majority of the popular vote and a majority of the state’s 122 House districts. If they don’t win both, the winner is decided by the Mississippi House.
The provision was written into Mississippi’s 1890 state constitution to help keep political power in the hands of whites. A federal judge declined to immediately block the election process before last week’s election, though it did not become an issue in the governor’s race as some had worried.
“We’re the only ones that do it (like this), and that’s got to change,” Watson said of the state’s election system, adding he plans to push the Legislature to initiate the change, which would ultimately need to be approved by voters. Most states require only a plurality of votes to decide a winner for governor and other statewide contests.