Election process a complicated one

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 1999

Robert Albritton doesn’t think many people realized this year’s governor’s race would be headed for a likely end in the state Legislature. &uot;I daresay very few people were aware of this,&uot; he said. &uot;The constitution does say there has to be a majority. … And here it is, that little time bomb in the Constitution.&uot;

Although complete but unofficial results have Democratic Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove leading the popular vote by about 7,000 votes, neither he nor GOP candidate Mike Parker garnered a majority.

Absentee ballots in some precincts across the state still must be counted, but most people were predicting Wednesday those votes would not push either candidate over the top.

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&uot;This is the first time I’ve been in a state in which a plurality has not been enough to elect someone,&uot; Albritton said.

George Robinson, chairman of Adams County’s Democratic party, said he expects Musgrove to be elected by the state’s Democratic-majority House of Representatives. &uot;If it goes to the Legislature, Ronnie’s going to obviously win,&uot; Robinson said. &uot;I really think people have remembered the good job Ronnie Musgrove has done as lieutenant governor. It was a tight race due to some aggressive campaigning by Mike Parker.&uot;

State Rep. Andrew Ketchings, newly re-elected Tuesday to the District 95 seat, said he isn’t even sure yet how the process works. Ketchings said there may be a lot of negotiating behind the scenes as the candidates’ supporters try to garner votes.

House Speaker Tim Ford, a Democrat, predicted a showdown if Parker receives the most electoral votes, which are based on Mississippi House districts. ”If Mike Parker happens to get a majority of the electoral vote, he has just as much claim on the governorship as Ronnie does,” Ford said. ”It’s not over.”

Republicans lost state House seats Tuesday and number just 33 in the 122-member chamber.

The state’s 1890 Constitution requires any candidate for statewide office to win a majority of both the popular vote and the electoral votes. Secretary of State Eric Clark, a former college history professor, said those thresholds dated back to ”an effort to ensure white control of state government.”

Only one other state, Vermont, has the same process, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Clark, however, said legislators are ”free agents” and can vote their personal preference.

In the three times this century the state House has had to settle close state races, candidates winning the popular vote were chosen.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.