Mississippi’s Nail-Biter Election Ignites Controversy over Runoff Law and Voting Procedures


The 2023 race for governor of Mississippi brought attention to the state’s runoff rule. Tate Reeves, the Republican incumbent, won re-election by a hair’s breadth over Brandon Presley, the Democrat candidate. Only 15,466 votes, or 50.9% of the vote, were more than what was needed to make Reeves the winner, so there was no need for a rematch. People are talking about how the new runoff law will affect future elections, with a focus on worries about when runoffs happen and the problems they cause with logistics, like waiting for results and having to quickly make more ballots.

Michael Watson is in charge of the office of the Mississippi Secretary of State. To get around these problems, the office is thinking about making the time between general elections and runoffs four weeks instead of three. For this change to become law, it would have to go through the political process. The close race also reminded people of Georgia’s runoff system and the old Mississippi law that combined a majority in the general vote with a majority in House districts. This system has its roots in the Jim Crow era.

There wasn’t a repeat election in Mississippi this time, but the possibility of one in the future has sparked interest in other ways to vote, like Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). People who support RCV say that making the election into a single event, it could help keep or even increase the number of people who vote. For example, after RCV was put in place in New York City, the most people turned out to vote in a primary election in thirty years. This suggests that RCV might be just what voter engagement needs.

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RCV isn’t just about numbers, though; it’s also about making politics better. In RCV areas, candidates tend to talk to voters more, and voters have more active political conversations. Also, most people know how to use the ranking system well, so it’s clear that RCV could be a success with the right training. Beyond getting more people involved, RCV could also increase the number of candidates of color, women, and minority groups, which would improve their chances of winning elections. It’s more important than ever to talk about inclusive democracy and voting turnout as Mississippi struggles with its runoff law.

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