Legislators differ in views on race

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 20, 1999

Phillip West says he learned in high school civics class how he should vote when the Legislature takes on the governor’s race in January.

&uot;I don’t think I should have the authority to overrule the person who got the most votes,&uot; said West, D-Natchez, who plans to vote for Democrat Ronnie Musgrove.

State House members are scheduled to vote Jan. 4 to decide the governor’s race between Musgrove and Republican Mike Parker. Although Musgrove edged Parker in the popular vote, neither candidate received a majority because two minor candidates were also on the Nov. 2 ballot.

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According to state law, a gubernatorial candidate must receive both the majority of the popular vote and the majority of the electoral vote to win.

Electoral votes are based on the popular vote in each of the state’s 122 House districts. Musgrove and Parker are deadlocked there as well, with each receiving 61 votes.

But House members aren’t bound to vote the way their districts voted.

For West, his personal choice and his district’s choice are the same. But he said he would have voted his conscience anyway.

&uot;My district, with all due respect, has nothing to do with my vote,&uot; he said.

But while many of the House’s 33 Republican members — including Andrew Ketchings of Natchez — plan to vote for Parker, some Democrats are still undecided, especially those whose districts voted for Parker.

&uot;Some representatives say they are not going to vote their districts,&uot; Ketchings said. &uot;Some people are having a hard time with it.&uot;

Ketchings said he believes there is some behind-the-scenes campaigning going on as Parker tries to persuade Democrats to vote for him. For those Democrats who aren’t strictly aligned with their party and often vote conservatively, the choice could be difficult, Ketchings said.

&uot;That’s when you ask did (voters) trust me to go in there and vote my conscience or vote exactly how they would,&uot; he said.

West said he believes there will be an effort now to change the Constitutional provision that calls for a majority vote to elect the governor.

&uot;I’m quite certain there will be some movement to to change it, and I will support that,&uot; West said. He said he would like to see the governor chosen based on a plurality of votes, rather than a majority.

Ketchings said an open primary could solve the problem, but he also did not object to using electoral votes to help decide an election.

&uot;That’s what elects the president,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s not unheard of that a governor would be elected this way.&uot;

If representatives do vote based on their districts, West said there are no provisions in the case of a tie.

House Speaker Tim Ford, D-Baldwyn, told the Associated Press he does not plan to vote. He expects a vote along party lines.

Rep. David Green, D-Gloster, was unable to be reached for comment, but he has said he will vote for Musgrove. His district also voted for Musgrove.