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Mississippi: polarized politics may return with party registration

The New York Times reports: A federal court ruling in June that forces voters to register by party could return Mississippi to the days of racially polarized politics, as many white Democrats warn that thousands of white voters will now opt definitively for the Republican Party.

Republican-leaning voters in Mississippi have long been able to cross party lines in primaries, voting for centrist Democrats in state and local races while staying loyal to Republican candidates in national races. But political experts here say that by limiting these voters — almost all of whom are white — to Republican primaries, the ruling will push centrist Democratic candidates to the other party, simply in order to survive.

Most black voters in Mississippi are Democrats, and black political leaders have been pushing for years to prevent crossover voting in Democratic primaries. Black leaders say they want to end precisely what white Democrats here seek to preserve, a strong moderate-to-conservative voice in the Democratic Party, and in the process to pick up more state and local posts.

The ruling last month by Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. of Federal District Court allowed the legal remedy sought by black leaders. Judge Pepper said the Democratic Party in Mississippi had a right to “disassociate itself” from voters who were not genuine Democrats. Most other Southern states also have open primaries. -- In Mississippi, Ruling Is Seen as Racial Split

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