All eyes are on the South for the best and worst reasons. From our Legislature full-on trying to take over the capital city, to the Tennessee Legislature doing its modern version of “stay in your place, boy” with the ousting of two fierce young Black legislators, to the Georgia power players being so scared that Stacey Abrams could win their gubernatorial election that they rejiggered their election laws so that giving folks water while standing in line was illegal.
These calculated moves of disfranchisement and public degradation have directed the nation’s gaze to the part of the country that many forsake. The racism in the South is no worse than racism all across this nation, but the South says the quiet part out loud. It’s a bit louder and certainly more obvious than elsewhere, but hardly any different. In the South, we see racism coming from around the block and down the street. In other parts of the country, it sneaks up on you. Frankly, I prefer it our way. It gives us time to plan.
This is where some well-meaning person from up North will tell me their fair city or state is different because they fill-in-the-blanks about social safety nets and voting laws. This is the point when I ask about their minority population, which is usually not significant enough to swing an election or change the landscape of a neighborhood. The real litmus test happens when people work and live together.
Now that the Mississippi governor’s race might be in play, lots of money will come pouring in from all over the nation. The money started with Georgia and Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial bid and will continue now that the dumbasses in the Tennessee Legislature are creating two political rising stars. (I think this will end up on the Top 10 list as one of the worst political moves in the history of our nation.)
I’ll take this time to say that the Mississippi Free Press is a nonpartisan outlet; these are my opinions. This column is actually more concerned with genuinely competitive elections and ensuring that we have a healthy ecosystem that supports democracy at large. Any super-majority of any kind does not support a healthy democracy.
Here’s where good local media come in. Since 2020 the Mississippi Free Press’ Trusted Elections Project has compared polling-location data found through Mississippi’s Statewide Election Management System (SEMS) to each county’s circuit clerk’s precinct’s data. SEMS, housed at the secretary of state’s office, is where many Mississippians go to find out where they should vote.
In 2022, using detailed and careful fact-checking, we found 70 polling places changed. Our fantastic team, led by Ashton Pittman and his husband, William Pittman, called 82 elections offices and compared 1,766 voting precincts to what was on the secretary of state’s site. As a result, civil-rights organizations joined forces to demand better systems. We now do this for every election, primary and general election, because you deserve to know where you vote. That is a pillar of democracy.
That’s not sensational or headline-grabbing horse-race reporting about elections, but it is essential information for free and fair elections. We’re kicking off this project again very soon, and we need you to support it along with the entire newsroom to protect democracy. In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Journalism and Education Group, the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an opinion for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and sources fact-checking the included information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.