It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that voting rights in Mississippi are some of the weakest in the country. Indeed, Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith even “joked” that voter suppression is a “great idea.” When campaigning for Secretary of State, then candidate Sam Britton declared that Mississippi needs a voter ID law. The only problem: Mississippi already has a voter ID law that suppresses the vote. Mississippi Republicans have implemented so many voter suppression tactics, they can’t keep track of them. 

This spring, civil rights activists fought back against voter suppression by filing suit against Mississippi officials challenging a Jim Crow era law that have prevented African-Americans from being elected statewide. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is representing the Mississippians. Under the Mississippi law, if no candidate for statewide office wins a majority of the vote, the election is decided by the Mississippi House. The discriminatory effect of this law is not hypothetical: no African Americans have been elected in Mississippi statewide since this provision was enacted. Mississippi has statewide elections in 2019 and this discriminatory law could directly affect the outcome of those elections. 

Even though Mississippi Republicans (and formerly Dixiecrats) have a long history of suppressing the vote in the state, Mississippi Democrats still fought for voting rights. All of the Democratic bills that would have expanded voting rights that were introduced this session failed, including: authorization of early voting (SB 2895HB 1542SB 2026), expanding absentee voting (HB 902) (last November, Mississippi was sued for its burdensome absentee voting), requiring an on-campus voting precinct at all public universities (HB 1346), establishment of online voter registration and pre-election day voting (SB 2258), and enactment of automatic voter registration (HB 423). A Mississippi Democratic bill (SB 2855) that would have restored voting rights to individuals with felony records after they completed their sentences and restored fines also failed.

A Republican legislator also unsuccessfully tried to create additional unnecessary barriers to voting by introducing legislation (SB 2464) that requires eligible voters to present proof of citizenship to register to vote. 

Mississippi is one of the few states with state elections in 2019. This November, we need to focus on putting as many voting rights champions into office as possible in order to make Mississippi elections more free, fair, and accessible. Every state and local election matters in fighting voter suppression and promoting voting rights–Mississippi voters need to turn out in elections this fall. Find out how to help elect Democrats in Mississippi this fall!