Katina Hawkins, 61, a resident of Fayette, Mississippi, survives on food stamps
Katina Hawkins, 61, a resident of Fayette, Mississippi, survives on food stamps AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA

Recent revelations in Mississippi show that opposition to Black voters still remains in place to a significant extent.

On the eve of the presidential election, African-American voters in Mississippi face obstacles like requirements for a state-mandated ID that mostly affect poor and minority communities.

In at least one respect, it’s harder to vote in Mississippi than virtually any other state, the Associated Press noted. And, although Mississippi has the largest percentage of Black people of any state, a Jim-Crow era election law is largely responsible for the fact no Black person has been elected to a statewide office in 130 years.

In 2020, though, Democrats hope that mobilizing Black voters and recruiting Black candidates can eventually give them a path to relevance.

These days, voters in Mississippi face several barriers that, according to a study in the Election Law Journal in 2018, make it the most difficult state in which to vote. Consider: Mississippi has broad restrictions on absentee voting, no early voting, nor online registration.

Such restrictions have grown even tighter since a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that blocked many voting rights protections.

“Anything that increases the ‘costs’ of voting -- the time it takes, the effort it takes -- that tends to decrease voter turnout,” said Conor Dowling, a professor of political science at the University of Mississippi, according to the AP report. “And there is evidence that some of these burdens are disproportionately felt by minority voters.”

Another key factor: the state of Mississippi is saddled with widespread poverty. Nearly one-third of the state’s Black residents live below the poverty line, more than twice the rate for white people, meaning it can be costly to take time away from work to vote.

Then there’s the case of Mississippi residents like Demarkio Pritchett, a 29-year-old who, in the past was convicted of multiple crimes, including drug possession. Pritchett, now out of prison, can’t vote because, in his state, anyone convicted of 22 different crimes, from murder to shoplifting, has their rights permanently revoked. The only exceptions are if an individual gets a pardon from the governor, or convinces two-thirds of the state’s lawmakers to pass a bill written specifically for them.

“I want to vote, but they make it so I can’t,” Pritchett told the AP. “We can’t beat the government. We just can’t.”