Once again, Mississippi voters, frustrated by not being able to cross party lines to cast ballots for their favorite candidates, are excited about installing an “open primary” election system that neighboring Louisiana has had since 1975.

Not that the Legislature hasn’t tried to scrap the closed primary system. In fact, four times since 1966, lawmakers have passed legislation to put candidates for all parties (and independents) on the same primary ballot and require a runoff between the two highest finishers.

None has become law. Mostly, the U.S. Justice Department has disapproved of Mississippi’s proposed changes under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Blacks objected it would block them running as independents in general elections after being historically shut out of closed Democratic primaries.

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Clarion Ledger
8/18/11