Legislature In Overtime, Criminal Justice Reform Top Priority


Rep. Willie Bailey, D-Greenville, rose to the podium above the Mississippi House of Representatives at the end of a long Tuesday on June 16. The topic of discussion was a resolution to do away with the state's "electoral college," adopted in 1890. The system requires candidates for statewide offices to win both the popular vote and a majority of counties in the state, a barrier erected to, in the words of Mississippi Gov. James K. Vardaman, "eliminate the n*gger from politics," much as the U.S. electoral college was adopted to appease southern slave owners.

"This whole electoral-college thing started way back after the 1890s," Bailey said. "And it was started to prevent a Black person from ever serving in a statewide position. So it was put into law for a racial reason. We don't want to apply a racial reason now."

Bailey advised caution to those unsure about their vote. The bill's intent was to change statewide elections to a simple popular vote. "Don't vote against it because you think we're taking something from the people," he said.

Not much fanfare followed.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, took the tally: 141 for, 5 against. The resolution, which is expected to pass, is one small step toward the purging of systemic racism in Mississippi law.

But changes to another relic of Mississippi's past have been harder to come by. Efforts to change the Mississippi flag first appeared stalled out: Lt. Gov. 
Delbert Hosemann condemned the effort to a committee, which showed no intention of calling it up. "We should've done that years ago. That flag doesn't represent anybody," Bailey told the Jackson Free Press in an interview. But his faith in a legislative solution was slim.

"Mark my words on that. They're scared. There's not gonna be change, there's gonna be lip service. They want to get

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