BILL MINOR: Our state has a ‘vote-as-you-please’ system

As Mississippi’s seemingly unending Republican Senatorial primary charade slowly unwinds, a chorus of critics have voiced complaints about the state’s party primary election laws.

Much of that criticism stems from the Republican camp which has been embarrassed that the comedy makes them seem incompetent to handle an election system they only recently inherited.

Few critics apparently know the background of how Mississippi’s election system was built during decades when Democrats were the only election act in town and the overriding goal was to find ways to keep blacks away from the voting booth. The 1965 Voting Rights act changed all that as blacks got federal protection to ward off election law changes they believed could reverse their gains.

Now, it has become known that Republican Sen. Thad Cochran on June 24 benefited from votes of black Democrats who asked for Republican ballots at their voting precinct. Consequently some writers have opined that Mississippi had an “open” primary system.

It’s no open primary. What Mississippi has is a “vote as you please” system because voters here don’t register by party or have to carry a party registration card. That’s the way its been for many years. So black Democrats (and many white Democrats I know about) got a Republican ballot at their voting place to vote for Cochran. Actually they were voting AGAINST Chris McDaniel out of fear he could win.

No questions about party loyalty were asked the cross-over voters. Dixiecrats wanted it that way so they would be free to bolt the national party ticket–as they did on three occasions in the 1940s and 1950s.

Desoto Times
7/9/14