Mississippi: Voting while Black: The hurdles have changed, but never gone away | Tim Sullivan/Associated Press

The old civil rights worker was sure the struggle would be over by now.He’d fought so hard back in the ’60s. He’d seen the wreckage of burned churches, and the injuries of people who had been beaten. He’d seen men in white hoods. At its worst, he’d mourned three young men who were fighting for Black Mississippians to gain the right to vote, and who were kidnapped and executed on a country road just north of here. But Charles Johnson, sitting inside the neat brick church in Meridian where he’s been pastor for over 60 years, worries that Mississippi is drifting into its past. “I would never have thought we’d be where we’re at now, with Blacks still fighting for the vote,” said Johnson, 83, who was close to two of the murdered men. “I would have never believed it.” The opposition to Black votes in Mississippi has changed since the 1960s, but it hasn’t ended. There are no poll taxes anymore, no tests on the state constitution. But on the eve of the most divisive presidential election in decades, voters face obstacles such as state-mandated ID laws that mostly affect poor and minority communities and the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of former prisoners. And despite Mississippi having the largest percentage of Black people of any state in the nation, a Black person hasn’t been elected to statewide office in 130 years.

Mississippi: Jones County election commissioner’s social media comment about Black voters causes uproar | Lici Beveridge/Mississippi Clarion Ledger

A social media comment with racial undertones made by a Mississippi election commissioner sparked outrage across the state on the same weekend state legislators voted to retire the flag and its Confederate emblem. “I’m concerned about voter registration in Mississippi,” the commissioner wrote. “The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too.” Gail Welch’s comment caused an uproar Sunday, as screen shots of the comment spread quickly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Welch said she has received calls and messages from all over the country about the post. On Facebook, dozens of people shared their thoughts on the Welch’s words. One Mississippi lawmaker said he doesn’t know if Welch meant what she said, but her words give an impression of racism. “It’s those kind of things that people say until somebody brings it to their attention and then it’s not what they said or it’s not what they meant,” said Sen. Juan Barnett, whose district includes part of Jones County.

Mississippi: Secretary of state: Mississippi not yet ready for vote by mail system | Theo DeRosa/The Dispatch

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said Tuesday his opposition to a statewide mail-based voting system is because he’s not sure it’s the safest option for Mississippi — or if it’s even a legitimate possibility anytime soon. Speaking with the Rotary Club of Columbus via Zoom, the first-term Republican recounted a recent conversation he had with Kim Wyman, secretary of state for Washington, one of five states where elections are conducted entirely by mail. Wyman, a fellow member of the GOP, has long been a proponent of the system, which is significantly more popular nationwide with Democrats than Republicans. On the call, Watson had one major question for Wyman regarding Mississippi’s voting future: “Could we even get there if we wanted to?” “Michael, it’s impossible,” Wyman told him. “It took us five years to implement a vote by mail system. If you try to do it now by November, it’s going to be a catastrophic failure. Don’t even try it.”

Mississippi: Secretary of State says existing law allows mail-in voting expansion during coronavirus pandemic. Is that enough? | Bobby Harrison/Mississippi Today

A section of existing Mississippi law could be used to allow some people to vote early by mail to avoid coronavirus exposure at the polls in November, Secretary of State Michael Watson told legislators Wednesday. Mississippi is one of six states nationwide that have not taken steps to expand voting by mail because of the coronavirus. The House and Senate Elections committees held a joint hearing on Wednesday regarding voting issues in November if the coronavirus is still a concern. In the hearing, Watson said it should be up to local circuit clerks in each county to determine whether a person could vote early under a provision of law that says people with a temporary disability can vote early by mail or in person. But Watson, who is the state’s chief elections officer, said he opposed a blanket expansion of vote by mail, though he said he would support an expansion to allow people to vote early in person at local courthouses.

Mississippi: With history of voter suppression, Mississippi trailing most states in making elections safer | Bobby Harrison/Mississippi Today

In no state has more blood been shed for the right to vote than Mississippi where people have died in the quest to end Jim Crow-era laws that denied the vote to African American citizens. Hopefully, Mississippians no longer have to put their lives on the line to vote. But under current state laws voting could again be dangerous if COVID-19 is still a threat in November when Mississippians go to the polls to elect a president, U.S. senator and other officeholders. Mississippi has some of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws. And Mississippi is one of only six states, according to Represent Us, a national non-profit promoting mail-in voting, to not have taken steps to make it safer to vote if the coronavirus is still a factor in November. Both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, have said the issue of ensuring voter safety will be a topic to be taken up in the coming days and weeks of the legislative session. The state has received federal funds to help ensure a safe election. Hosemann and Gunn are saying all options are on the table. But as of yet, they are not providing any details.

Mississippi: Secretary of state’s visit brings up question of potential paper ballot switch | Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal

Newly elected Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson has embarked on a listening tour through all of the state’s 82 counties to gather concerns from circuit clerks and election commissioners. He made his Monroe County visit March 9, and one of the talking points was the potential of mandated paper ballots for elections. While he is unsure of what the future may hold with electronic versus paper ballots, Monroe County Circuit Clerk Dana Sloan later said she is preparing if it is mandated. “If it comes through a federal mandate, it would come with funds. I’ve heard rumors of a potential push from Washington about a mandate to bring back paper ballots, but nothing is confirmed. Right now, I just heard there was a possibility but I want to gather as much information as I can to be prepared in case it happens,” she said. Monroe County switched from paper ballots to electronic TSX voting machines in 2006. A ballpark estimate for one scanner at each of Monroe County’s 26 voting precincts and four additional scanners at the four largest ones to tabulate paper ballot results is $285,000.

Mississippi: Governor Delays a GOP Primary Runoff Amid Pandemic | Emily Wagster Pettus/Associated Press

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Friday that he is postponing the March 31 Republican primary runoff in the state’s 2nd Congressional District because of the coronavirus. The new date is June 23. Mississippi joins a number of other states that have postponed elections amid the global pandemic. “We face an unprecedented health crisis. Conducting an election during this outbreak would force poll workers and voters to place themselves in unnecessary risk,” Reeves said in a statement. “It’s important that we exercise our rights as Americans to a free and fair election, but so is ensuring the health and safety of all Mississippians.” The Republican runoff is between Thomas L. Carey and Brian Flowers, who are running low-budget campaigns. The winner will advance to the November general election to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Mississippi: Paper ballots offer extra election security | Caleb Bedillion/Daily Journal

Amid ongoing anxiety about election hacking and foreign interference, Lee County continues to use what many experts deem the most secure voting system: the paper ballot. In Mississippi, the bulk of the state’s 82 counties use fully electronic voting systems. But about a dozen or so counties use paper ballots. And that number is increasing. “The shift is we’re going back,” said Lee County Circuit Clerk Camille Roberts Dulaney. A Republican about to begin her second term, Dulaney said hand-marked ballots build voter confidence and ensure the integrity of the election. “It just feels safer to me,” Dulaney said. In North Mississippi, Choctaw County is among those exploring a return to a system that incorporates paper ballots. With touch-screen machines nearing the end of their life, the county tested new machines this year that produced a paper ballot. “We wanted to know if there was something new,” said Deputy Circuit Clerk Linda Miles. The county used machines built by VotingWorks, which provided them free of charge to test in this year’s statewide primary and general elections.

Mississippi: The Way America Votes Is Broken. In One Rural County, a Nonprofit Showed a Way Forward. | Jessica Huseman/ProPublica

Choctaw County’s election centers opened at 7 a.m. last Tuesday, and voters were greeted by poll workers who’d just set up brand-new voting machines. “If you need any help, just holler,” poll worker Albert Friddle told a voter as he walked her through the new system. She didn’t holler. Using a machine the size of a briefcase, she selected her choices, printed and double-checked her ballot, and dropped it into a secured blue box provided by the county. Indeed, the day went without anyone hollering. “Everything went just fine,” said Amy Burdine, Choctaw County circuit clerk. “Just as expected.” The scene in Mississippi, if modest in its particulars, was seen by some as a telling moment at a time of great anxiety about the accuracy and security of the nation’s voting systems. Mississippi is one of only a few states in the country to allow the use of voting machines that have not been certified by federal authorities, and the state has no certification process of its own. As a result, the machines at work for the first time in Choctaw County last week were built by VotingWorks — a small nonprofit organization founded by Ben Adida and Matt Pasternack. Adida and Pasternack selected the state both for its regulatory environment and because many counties in the state continue to use paperless voting systems, allowing the company, Adida said, to “very quickly improve the security of voting in Mississippi by reintroducing paper.”

Mississippi: ‘It’s a hell of a big mess:’: Malfunction allows improper party crossover voting | Sarah Fowler/Jackson Clarion Ledger

Voters who cast ballots for one party in the Aug. 6 primary may have improperly voted for a different party in Tuesday’s runoff due to machine malfunctions, according to the Hinds County GOP.  Pete Perry, Hinds County Republican Party chairman, said he was first alerted to an issue at Casey Elementary precinct around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday. The school is one of the 108 precincts in Hinds County. According to a poll worker, people who voted Democratic in the primary were allowed to vote in the Republican runoff, Perry said. A spokesperson for the Hinds County Election Commission could not be reached for comment. According to Perry, the “party lock” on machines provided by Election Systems and Software is not functioning. This means voters who cast a ballot for a Democratic candidate in the primary are being erroneously allowed to vote in the Republican runoff.  Mississippi has no party registration and is an open primary state. But if voters  vote for one party in the primary, they are only allowed to vote for that same party in a runoff. For example, if a voter voted on the Democratic ticket in August, they would not be allowed to vote in Tuesday’s Republican runoff for governor. However, Perry said, “we know that’s already happened.”

Mississippi: Video captures glitching Mississippi voting machines flipping votes | Lisa Vaas/Naked Security

“It is not letting me vote for who I want to vote for,” a Mississippi voter said in a video that shows him repeatedly pushing a button on an electronic touch-screen voting machine that keeps switching his vote to another candidate. Walker said in a comment that the incident happened in Oxford, Miss., in Lafayette County. A local paper, the Clarion Ledger, reported that as of Tuesday night, there were at least three reports confirmed by state elections officials of voting machines in two counties changing voters’ selections in the state’s GOP governor primary runoff. The machines were switching voters’ selections from Bill Waller Jr.- a former Supreme Court Chief justice – to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves. Waller’s campaign told the Clarion Ledger it also received reports of misbehaving voter machines in at least seven other counties. Waller conceded to Reeves around 9 p.m. on Tuesday night. With Reeves leading 54% to Waller’s 46%, it looks unlikely that the glitches affected the outcome. Before the malfunctioning machine was discovered in Lafayette County, the machine – reportedly a paperless AccuVote TSX from Diebold – only recorded 19 votes, according to Anna Moak, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office. A technician was dispatched, and the machine is being replaced, she said.

Mississippi: Recovered thumb drive puts Newman ahead after DeLano claimed victory in District 50 race | Alyssa Newton/Biloxi Sun Herald

The District 50 Senate race was one of the closest on the Mississippi Coast, but it’s taken another turn with the Wednesday recovery of a thumb drive full of votes. With all precincts in Tuesday night, incumbent Rep. Scott DeLano held a 33-vote lead over Biloxi City Councilwoman Dixie Newman. That lead was without the affidavit votes, but DeLano declared the victory late Tuesday evening. “We look at these elections and see how many affidavits that are out there. It’s very unusual to make a really big difference in the outcome,” told the Sun Herald Tuesday night. “Even though it’s razor-thin, we expect it to fall in line with what the vote came out of those individual precincts.” It wasn’t the affidavits, but a thumb drive that changed the race Wednesday afternoon. “There was a drive that was left out from the D’Iberville Civic Center,” Newman’s campaign manager Holly Gibbes said. “Those numbers were never counted. (Harrison County Circuit Clerk) Connie Ladner‘s office produced that thumb drive today and added it in. “The thumb drive and all the affidavits, absentees and what could be counted is what put Dixie up by one vote.”

Mississippi: Elections officials fight back against hackers, foreign operatives | Erin Pickens/WAPT

Ever since the 2016 presidential election, the issue of foreign operatives and hackers manipulating the voting process has been a huge concern. Hackers tried 200,000 times on Election Day to jam the polling place locator on the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said his office works year-round to identify and stop any potential problems. “We have been meeting and giving cybersecurity information to our circuit clerks and our election commissioners in a lot of instances,” Hosemann said. “We’ve started dual authentication if they want to get into the statewide election management system.” The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is the only federal agency focused full time on elections, says states have only spent about 29% of the $380 million Congress allocated in spring 2018 for election security. Congress gave states five years to spend those funds. Eleven states, including Mississippi, still have at least one precinct that uses paperless voting equipment that does not provide a voter-verified paper ballot to allow for risk-limiting audits.

Mississippi: Federal judge orders remap of a Mississippi state Senate district | Associated Press

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that one of Mississippi’s 52 state Senate districts violates the Voting Rights Act because it does not give African-American voters an “equal opportunity” to elect a candidate of their choice. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled in a lawsuit that challenges the composition of Senate District 22. The district stretches through parts of six counties in the Delta down into the Jackson suburbs of Madison County. It has a 51 percent black voting-age population and a white senator, Republican Buck Clarke of Hollandale.

Mississippi: Federal judge hears arguments in redistricting case | Associated Press

A federal judge heard arguments Wednesday about whether African-American voters in part of Mississippi have a chance to elect a candidate of their choice in a state Senate district with a slim black majority. Three black plaintiffs sued the state in July, asking U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves to order that Senate District 22 be redrawn to increase its black majority. One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Rob McDuff, said the district has a history of racially polarized voting that creates hurdles for any black candidate to win in the district. “They are always losing, no matter how good the quality of the candidate,” McDuff said Wednesday. Mike Wallace is an attorney representing Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who are two of the three state election commissioners named as defendants. Wallace said that although Mississippi had barriers in the past to black voter registration and participation, plaintiffs failed to show that African-Americans face hurdles now in District 22. “There isn’t anything impeding them from exercising the right to vote,” Wallace said.

Mississippi: Voting rights for felons considered at legislature | WJTV

It’s deadline day at the state capitol – and there’s a last-minute push to restore voting rights for felons here in Mississippi. … This latest effort centers around Mississippi ‘s constitutional lifetime voting ban if someone is convicted of a felony.  Mississippi is one of only 3 states with a lifetime ban— crimes that can get you disenfranchised range from larceny to murder.  One Mississippian who was convicted of a felony as a juvenile is a part of a lawsuit going after the state for this law. He says he deserves to be able to vote because he did his time, then stayed away from trouble and now he is trying to set an example for his young children. 

Mississippi: Proposal would make voter ID law stricter | Associated Press

A proposal would set a shorter deadline for Mississippi voters to show photo identification if they forget it on Election Day. Since 2014, the state has required people to show government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, before voting. Anyone who forgets an ID may cast an affidavit ballot at the precinct but must go to a courthouse within five days to show the identification. If they don’t show up, their ballot is rejected. Senate Bill 2242 would shorten the five days to three days.

Mississippi: Civil rights lawsuit claims Mississippi made it nearly impossible to vote by absentee ballot | Salon

A civil rights group is suing top officials in Mississippi for giving voters very little time to cast absentee ballots in Tuesday’s special runoff Senate election, making it nearly impossible for some votes to be counted. Democrat Mike Espy faces appointed Republican incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith Tuesday after neither received a majority of the vote in the November 6 election. According to a federal lawsuit filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, election officials did not send absentee ballots for the run-off until Nov. 17. Many out-of-state voters did not receive the ballots until Thanksgiving time. Under state law, absentee ballots must have been submitted by Monday, Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. Absentee ballots in the state must also be notarized, which means many voters had just one business day to get the ballot stamped and delivered to their county elections office, Mississippi Today reported. “Mississippi’s absentee ballot procedures stand out as some of the most burdensome in this country,” the lawsuit says, accusing the state of violating the Constitution.

Mississippi: Civil rights group sues State over ‘burdensome’ absentee voting rules | Mississippi Today

A national civil rights group has filed a lawsuit against state officials over Mississippi’s absentee voting procedures, which “threaten to disenfranchise honest, eligible voters,” the suit alleges. The suit, filed last week by the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in the state’s Southern District, seeks emergency relief on behalf of three Mississippi residents who will be away from home during Tuesday’s runoff election and intend to vote absentee instead. None of the three had received their requested ballots as of Nov. 20, stated the suit, which was also filed on behalf of the NAACP’s Mississippi chapter. But according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, computer records show that county officials downloaded ballots for two of the plaintiffs, William Sewell and Julianne Huber, on Nov. 17, the first day that those ballots could have been mailed out, the Associated Press reported.

Mississippi: Issues of Race Complicate a Senate Election | The New York Times

A special election for the Senate in Mississippi has become a test of racial and partisan politics in the Deep South, as a Republican woman, Cindy Hyde-Smith, and an African-American Democrat, Mike Espy, compete for the last Senate seat still up for grabs in the 2018 midterm campaign. Ms. Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to a seat in the Senate earlier this year, seemed until recently to be on a glide path toward winning the election in her own right. Mr. Espy, a former cabinet secretary under President Bill Clinton, was running a strong underdog campaign but appeared highly unlikely to overcome Mississippi’s strongly conservative inclination. Yet the trajectory of the election was thrown into doubt last week when a video was circulated showing Ms. Hyde-Smith, 59, praising a supporter by telling him that if he invited her “to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Mississippi: State holidays could complicate absentee voting in run-off election | Clarion Ledger

Absentee voting is a difficult process in Mississippi and will be more difficult for the upcoming runoff elections with three state holidays between now and Nov. 27, state Sen. David Blount said Friday. “There is a very tight window to vote absentee,” said Blount, who spoke about the issue from the Hinds County Courthouse with Circuit Clerk Zack Wallace. Blount said state offices will be closed Monday for Veterans Day and Nov. 22 for Thanksgiving. Most will also be closed Nov. 23. “We believe the more people who vote the better the government will be,” Blount said. “We encourage everyone to go vote in these important runoff elections.” The absentee voting process can’t begin for the runoffs until results from the Nov. 6 general election are certified. The deadline to certify results is Nov. 16.

Mississippi: Not all ex-felons are barred from voting in Mississippi, but no one is telling them that | Mississippi Today

Jed Blackerby always understood, following his 2003 felony conviction, he had lost his right to vote. Mississippi’s constitution permanently strips the voting rights from people convicted of a number of specific felonies — 22 in total, according to the attorney general’s office. But Blackerby’s crime of aggravated assault does not appear on that list. “No one gave any guidance,” Blackerby said after learning he may still have his voting rights. “A long time ago when convicted felons, point blank, were not allowed to vote, (government officials) never made it public until afterwards that (people with) certain types of convictions were allowed to vote. It had never been publicized.” Blackerby has never visited the polls on Election Day, even though he considers himself engaged in politics and he has strong opinions about the country’s direction.

Mississippi: Hackers attempt cyber attacks on state voting system | WMC

How safe is the ballot you will be casting during the November 6 election? Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann maintains that your ballot will be safe from hackers, but he reveals that there are thousands of attempts each month to try to penetrate the Statewide Election Management System. In the past few weeks, the agency that oversees elections reports that hackers have attempted to get into the systems of circuit clerks and election commissioners. “They are sending out emails to my circuit clerks and my election commissioners telling them to open this invoice from a former employee who’s no longer employed here,” said Hosemann. “So I will tell you that’s the level of attempts we have going on.”

Mississippi: A New Class of Voting Rights Activists Picks Up the Mantle in Mississippi | The New York Times

The first time Howard Kirschenbaum registered voters in Mississippi was during the summer of 1964, when he was arrested and thrown in jail. The second time was on Tuesday, after returning to the Southern state more than a half-century later to support a new generation of voting rights activists. In the quiet of a rainy morning, Mr. Kirschenbaum helped to register students on the campus of the University of Mississippi, and before long, he was in tears. Memories of Freedom Summer 1964, the historic campaign to register African-American voters in Mississippi, came rushing back. “In that moment, there must have been five or six students, all waiting patiently to fill out the registration form,” said Mr. Kirschenbaum, 73, recalling the summer he spent in Moss Point, Miss., 54 years ago. “I am witnessing this moment. They want to vote. They are able to vote. The connection between then and now was so palpable. This is what we worked for all those years ago.”

Mississippi: State Updating Voter Registration Deadline for Runoffs | Associated Press

Mississippi is updating a voter registration deadline to meet a requirement of a 1993 federal law, giving people a bit more time to register so they can vote in runoff elections for federal offices. The state has required people to be registered at least 30 days before the first round of voting in an election. Runoffs happen three weeks later. The Mississippi NAACP, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Mississippi Center for Justice sent a letter to the state’s top election official in June. It said that under the National Voter Registration Act, people should be able to vote in runoffs if they’re registered at least 30 days before the runoff, not 30 days before the initial election.

Mississippi: Lawsuit: Mississippi legislative district dilutes black vote | Associated Press

A state Senate district in Mississippi dilutes black voting power and should be redrawn, three African-American plaintiffs say in a federal lawsuit filed Monday. The suit asks a judge to order legislators to reconfigure the district before the 2019 state elections. District 22 has a 51 percent black voting-age population, and the suit says it lacks “real electoral opportunity” for African-Americans. “The lack of opportunity is the result of white bloc voting and lower African-American turnout that are vestiges of the historical discrimination and extreme socio-economic disparities that have been inflicted upon African-Americans over a long period of time,” the lawsuit says.

Mississippi: State slated to receive some election security money | Jackson Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi can expect to receive nearly $4.5 million from the federal government in the next few months to improve election security, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said Tuesday. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann applied for a grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which has about $90 million available to divide among states for election security measures. Spokeswoman Leah Rupp Smith said Tuesday that Mississippi should receive its money before the general election this November.

Mississippi: Bennie Thompson and Delbert Hosemann spar on status of grant paperwork to U.S. EAC | Y’all Politics

On Monday, Congressman Bennie Thompson sent a letter to Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann asking him to submit paperwork on behalf of the state so that grant funding from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission would be eligible to the state. … “Russian interference in the 2016 election was a watershed moment for our democracy,” Thompson wrote in the letter. “Russia’s efforts have affected public confidence in elections and its efforts have shown no signs of cooling. Mississippi currently uses a combination of paper ballots and direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs) without a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).” … Just yesterday the Chairman for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Thomas Hicks, sent a letter to the editor of POLITICO in response to a letter published on May 17, “So far, few states have sought federal money to secure elections.”

Mississippi: Ex-Felons Oppose Merger of 2 Voting Rights Cases | Associated Press

Some former convicts who want to regain voting rights in Mississippi say their lawsuit should stand on its own and not be merged with a similar case. Two federal lawsuits are challenging Mississippi’s system for restoring suffrage to people convicted of certain felonies. One was filed in September by the Mississippi Center for Justice and other attorneys, representing some former convicts. The other was filed in March by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other attorneys, with a different set of plaintiffs who had lost voting rights because of felony convictions. The state’s top elections official, Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, filed papers April 5 requesting consolidation of the two cases, which he said are similar. They are assigned to different judges.

Mississippi: Lawsuit: Mississippi Constitution still disenfranchising thousands | Jackson Clarion Ledger

Mississippi’s Constitution, born in 1890 from the cauldron of white supremacy, continues to bar thousands of Mississippians from voting, a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges. “The scheme, created in the wake of Reconstruction, was harsh, punitive and unforgiving,” the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center alleges. “Born out of racial animus and still disproportionately impacting black Mississippians, the scheme impermissibly denies the right to vote to tens of thousands of citizens across the state.” Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, put the number of disenfranchised Mississippians at more than 180,000 — 8 percent of the adult population. Gov. Phil Bryant opposes any change to the law.