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"To our knowledge, this is the last vestige of Southern discrimination in the electoral process," Rep. Bennie Thompson told NPR.

Mississippi's election law designed for racial discrimination, suit alleges

Mississippi, normally as Republican red as any state, is expecting one of its closest gubernatorial races in years. But four African-American voters have sued in federal court to block the conduct of the election under the state's unique system, which they argue is racially discriminatory.

Since the 1890s, governors and other statewide candidates have had to win a two-tiered contest — securing not only a majority of the votes statewide, but also carrying most of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate crosses both thresholds then the state House, now solidly Republican, picks the winner.

The plaintiffs say the records of the 19th century legislative debate make clear that the system was designed explicitly to make sure an African-American could not win statewide, and none ever has.

The suit is being pushed by the National Redistricting Foundation, a political action committee headed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and affiliated with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

"To our knowledge, this is the last vestige of Southern discrimination in the electoral process," Rep. Bennie Thompson, the state's sole African-American member of Congress since 1993, told NPR. "I could win the popular vote and lose the vote of the Mississippi Legislature and it would nullify the will of the people."

Political handicappers say the open-seat contest between the Democratic state attorney general, Jim Hood, and the Republican lieutenant governor, Tate Reeves, could go either way in November. Both candidates are white. Also up for grabs are all the seats in the state House, where the GOP now holds a 60 percent majority. (Only one-third of the legislative districts have a majority-black electorate.)

The second part of the unique election system has been invoked only once. Twenty years ago, the last time a Democrat was elected governor, Ronnie Musgrove fell short of winning a majority of the districts but got the job because the state House was then in Democratic hands.

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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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