Mississippi’s “open primary” law, similar to Louisiana’s wherein candidates from all parties run in the same primary, with the two highest finishers vying in a general election, ironically was left in a state of “suspended animation” in January, 1971 when a three-judge federal panel found the Department of Justice Voting Rights clearance too ambiguous.
The judges said it would stay there until the DOJ clarified its opinion, which didn’t happen in time for 1971 state elections, so the state went back to the party primary system. It was not until a few years later when a new U.S. Attorney General yanked the earlier DOJ response.
The open primary has had a checkered career going back to 1966 when it was first enacted by the Legislature aimed at putting the Republicans out of business. Gov. Paul B. Johnson Jr., after endorsing the idea, vetoed the bill. Several times later, the state sent open primary bills up to the DOJ for clearance, but they were rejected on grounds that it prevented black Democrats from bypassing primaries and running as independents in the general election.
Republicans, who first opposed the idea, changed their mind when a Republican won the governor’s office under the system in Louisiana, and several GOPers have won since.