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"Today, Mississippi is one of only two states where the winner of the popular vote does not automatically become governor," writes Gideon Cohn-Postar.

How one Southern state’s election rules perpetuate a racist past

Cohn-Postar is a graduate student in history at Northwestern University.

A lawsuit over a Mississippi election law could change the way that state elects its governor.

Four African-Americans filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in May, charging that the way their state elects its statewide officials violates the Voting Rights Act, the 14th Amendment and the principle of "one-person, one-vote."

To win election, a candidate for governor has to win an outright majority of the popular vote – and win a majority of Mississippi's 122 House districts.

If no candidate does both, the state House selects the governor, regardless of who got the most votes. No African American has been elected statewide since 1890.

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