The November 6 midterm elections may have come and gone, but the battle still rages on for some of the nation’s most coveted political seats.The Mississippi Senate race between Democratic candidate Mike Espy and incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith has gone into a runoff, giving the traditionally red state the opportunity to flip to blue.
While Espy's potential win might not be enough to override the Republican majority within the Senate, it could create more of a hindrance when Republican-endorsed legislation does make its way to the Senate floor, especially if Democrats can get into the ears of Republican senators and sway their votes.
A state with a turbulent history of racism, Mississippi now has the chance to move forward in a major way. To help you learn more about this contentious election in the Deep South, we've highlighted some important facts around voting laws in Mississippi, and some information about the candidates:
1. Voter Disenfranchisement and Voter Suppression is real.
Voter disenfranchisement is the revoking of an individual’s right to vote. According to the Sentencing Project, one out of 10 people are unable to vote because of a previous felony charge. When you look at voter disenfranchisement for Black people in Mississippi, a staggering 127,130 were unable to vote as of 2016.
According to Mississippi Today, in a report published on October 24, five percent of polling offices in Mississippi had been closed since 2013. In 2013, the Supreme Court decided to no longer keep a partial law that required states with a history of voter suppression to receive federal approval before making any changes around voting laws and proceedings. The closure of polling places can be detrimental to Black voting outcome, especially in a state where there are high levels of poverty. Being able to easily find and travel to a polling station is important when we talk about voter turnout.
The current sitting senator of Mississippi, Cindy Hyde-Smith, made headlines for suggesting that voter suppression wouldn't be a bad thing for the upcoming recount. In a video that was tweeted by Lamar White Jr., a publisher of a local news site in Louisiana, Hyde-Smith can be heard saying, "And then they remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don’t want to vote.” She goes on to say in the video that, “maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.”
With a high amount of voter suppression claims being reported in states like Georgia and Florida, it's unremarkable that sitting member of congress would make such remarks about encouraging voter suppression.
via Getty Images
2. Mike Espy isn't new to Mississippi politics or the national stage
Mike Espy served as a congressional representative for Mississippi's second district for six years. He was the state's first Black congressman since the Reconstruction Era.
As a congressman, Espy co-sponsored a bill to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to include bilingual voting material. He then went on to make history again, when former President Bill Clinton appointed him secretary of U.S. agriculture. His appointment was short lived, when he resigned due to an investigation around ethics violations. Espy, went to trial and was later found not guilty of the charges.
If Espy wins the November 27 recount, he will be the first Black senator to represent the state of Mississippi.
3. Mike Espy;s stand on certain issues has led some to perceive him as a moderate Democrat.
When it comes to the issues some might perceive Mike Espy as a moderate Democrat. When asked about his views on abortion in an interview with the Jackson Free Press, he stated, "I'm anti-abortion, but I'm pro-choice."
He was awarded the Silver Rifle award by the NRA when he was a congressman in 1988. Espy also broke away from party line when he endorsed Republican candidate Haley Barbour for governor of Mississippi in 2007.
On his campaign website, Espy, say's he doesn't support building a new wall at the U.S. and Mexico boarder but believes in secure boarders. It also says he, "believes that the separation of children from their parents is abhorrent to our sense of American decency." Which has been in line with the Democratic leadership.
The site also mentions raising minimum wage, enhancing Mississippi's infrastructure, and improving Mississippi's agriculture economy to name a few of the issues the candidate said he will focus on as senator.
via Screenshot of Cindy Hyde-Smith campaign website
4. His opponent, Cindy Hyde-Smith, is a sitting senator who has espoused racist dog-whistles.
Mike Espy's opponent, Republican candidate and sitting senator, Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the senate after the previous Senator Thad Cochran resigned. As senator, Hyde-Smith has sponsored two pro-life legislation and hasn't been afraid to play the dog-whistle in this contentious race.
Hyde-Smith has made headlines for what some perceive as racist comments. At a campaign event in Tupelo, Mississippi, Hyde-Smith made a comment stating, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row" in reference to the white cattle rancher who was standing next to her.
Hyde-Smith made those remarks as a sitting senator of a state that has the highest recorded number of lynchings, according the NAACP. What makes these racist remarks even more insulting is the fact that her opposing candidate Mike Espy, is a Black man. Hyde-Smith has refused to apologize and referred to her statement issued on the matter when further asked by reporters to clarify her statements regarding the "public hanging" comment.
On November 27, Mississippians will have an opportunity to vote again in the runoffs, making a decision that could help shift politics for a state that has been seen as strongly controlled by Republicans. Will Cindy Hyde-Smith be elected despite her controversial remarks? or will Mississippians elect their first Black senator, marking a new chapter for the state that has been heavily plagued by racism? We'll be watching.
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