The proposal echoes laws that Mississippi enacted in the 1960s that did away with some local elected positions and replaced them with appointed officials, said Peyton McCrary, a former historian in the US justice department’s civil rights division.
“Back in 1966, right after the adoption of the Voting Rights Act, several different offices were switched from election to appointment,” he said. “And in other instances, the election was switched from single-member districts to at-large elections. All reflecting the concern of the Mississippi legislature that Black people now were going to be voting in significant numbers.”
Until 2013, when the US supreme court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Mississippi had to get election changes approved by the federal government before they went into effect. Had the state submitted the proposal for the new district, McCrary said, he was certain it would not have been approved.