Lawsuit: state jumped gun on election law

A group of black plaintiffs has filed a federal lawsuit challenging how Mississippi will elect circuit and chancery judges in November.

Attorney Carroll Rhodes of Brookhaven, who filed the lawsuit in federal court in Jackson on Oct. 3, says he does not wish to stop any judicial elections.

Rhodes says he wants the judiciary races to be run under the election law before it was rewritten by the Legislature in 2005.

Rhodes says the new law was not to take effect until Jan. 1.

He says the State Election Commission erroneously is using the new law for this year's election.

Rhodes' lawsuits cites six chancery court and nine circuit court districts where the opportunity for the election of blacks has been harmed by the new law.

In those districts, the Legislature changed the election process from what is known as a "herd" system to a "post" system.

Under the herd system, all candidates run in a pack and the top vote-getters win.

What the Legislature created was "posts," where candidates choose the post for which they are running.

Attorney General Jim Hood says the election change was approved by the Justice Department.

Rhodes says the Election Commission did not ask the Justice Department of Justice for approval to apply the 2005 law changes to the 2006 election.