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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn easily dispatched her lone opponent Tuesday to capture the Democratic nomination in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, while Republicans pared down a crowded field seeking to reclaim the seat the GOP lost in one of the biggest congressional upsets in 2018.

In the race for Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seat, incumbent U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe defeated three GOP challengers and will face Democrat Abby Broyles, an attorney and former television reporter from Oklahoma City who also bested three primary challengers.

The real challenge for Horn, 44, the only Democrat in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, comes in November. Nine Republicans were vying to take back a seat they believe should belong to the GOP. Oklahoma City businesswoman Terry Neese, 73, and state Sen. Stephanie Bice, 47, topped the field and will advance to an Aug. 25 primary runoff since neither captured more than 50% of the vote.

Horn defeated perennial candidate Tom Guild, a retired college professor from Edmond

Horn is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the nation because she represents a district President Donald Trump won by nearly 14 points in 2016. Both parties are spending heavily to win the seat.

“I like her and think she’s doing a great job,” said Darla Ryan, 59, a Democrat who cast her ballot for Horn Tuesday at Life Church in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond. “I voted for her last time, too.”

Four of Horn’s GOP challengers raised more than $500,000, including Neese, Bice, former state education superintendent Janet Barresi and businessman David Hill.

Horn has raised more than $3.3 million this cycle, the most of anyone in the state’s delegation.

While a record number of Oklahomans cast absentee ballots by mail this year, turnout was steady Tuesday at several polling places in the Oklahoma City metro area. At Life Church, most voters were wearing masks and maintaining social distancing in a line that stretched into the parking lot.

Savannah Steele, 19, a college student from Edmond who was voting for the first time, said the coronavirus pandemic made her uneasy.

“In Oklahoma, with (the number of reported cases) spiking, that was a concern, but with people staying six feet apart and wearing masks, it was fine,” Steele said.

Two other Republican incumbents, U.S. Reps. Markwayne Mullin and Tom Cole, also won their primaries Tuesday. Republican U.S. Reps. Kevin Hern and Frank Lucas did not have primary opponents.

Oklahoma voters Tuesday also narrowly approved an amendment to the state Constitution to extend Medicaid health coverage to tens of thousands of low-income residents. Oklahoma is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid — along with neighboring states Texas and Kansas—as part of the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act. amendment

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Mississippi could drop Jim Crow-era statewide voting process

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi just ditched its Confederate-themed state flag. Later this year, the state’s voters will decide whether to dump a statewide election process that dates to the Jim Crow era.

Facing pressure from a lawsuit and the possibility of action from a federal judge, legislators are putting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in November.

The amendment would simplify elections for governor and other statewide officials by erasing an Electoral College-type provision from Mississippi’s 1890 constitution — one that was written to dilute Black voting power and maintain white control of state politics.

Mississippi is the only state with such a system for state elections.

If voters adopt the amendment, a statewide candidate receiving a majority of the popular vote would win. If nobody receives that in a race with at least three candidates, the top two would go to a runoff.

Legislators’ final action to put the amendment on the ballot happened Monday, a day after they took historic votes to retire a 126-year-old state flag that was the last in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. Amid widespread protests over racial injustice, Mississippi faced growing pressure to drop a symbol that’s widely condemned as racist.

A commission will design a new Mississippi flag without the rebel symbol and with the phrase, “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to accept or reject the new flag Nov. 3, the same day the amendment and the presidential race are on the ballot.

Mississippi Center for Justice is one of the groups representing plaintiffs in a 2019 lawsuit against the state. The center’s president, Vangela M. Wade, said documents show the complex electoral process was created to uphold white supremacy.

“As you go back through these documents, there’s language that clearly shows intent to circumvent the rights of African Americans,” Wade said Thursday.

About 38% of Mississippi’s residents are Black. The lawsuit — backed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — argues that Mississippi’s election system violates the principle of one-person, one-vote.

The Mississippi Constitution currently requires a statewide candidate to win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of electoral vote. One electoral vote is awarded to the candidate receiving the most support in each of the 122 state House districts.

If no candidate wins both the popular vote and the electoral vote, the race is decided by the state House. But representatives are not obligated to vote as their districts did, so arm-twisting could decide the outcome.

The process was written when white politicians across the South were enacting laws to erase Black political power gained during Reconstruction. The electoral vote was promoted as a way for the white ruling class have the final say in who holds office.

Plaintiffs argued that Mississippi’s history of racially polarized voting means that candidates preferred by Black voters must receive a higher share of the statewide vote to win a majority of House districts.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III wrote last November that he has “grave concern” about the constitutionality the electoral vote provision. Jordan wrote that the plaintiffs’ argument about violation of one person, one vote is “arguably … their strongest claim.”

Jordan put the lawsuit on hold in December, saying he would give legislators a chance to remedy the system by putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The amendment will need approval from a simple majority of voters.

The last time a governor’s race was thrown to the Mississippi House was 20 years ago. Nobody received the required majorities in a four-person race for governor in 1999. The top two candidates were white, and each won 61 electoral votes. In January 2000, House members chose Democrat Ronnie Musgrove, who led the popular vote, over Republican Mike Parker. At the time, the House was controlled by Democrats. It is now controlled by Republicans.

Some Democrats thought the electoral provision might come into play in a tight 2019 governor’s election, but Republican Tate Reeves easily defeated Democrat Jim Hood and two lesser-known candidates.

____

Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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