The Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative process in 2021. The ruling took away citizens’ ability to exercise a right that is still clearly enumerated in the Mississippi Constitution.
With election day tomorrow, swarms of media members have descended upon candidates to ask them about their positions on important issues to give voters a clear idea of who they will be voting for in November. Those issues have included various topics ranging from economic development to health care. But a key issue for voters has yet to be brought to the forefront of the elections: restoring Mississippians’ constitutional right to the ballot initiative and referendum process.
In 1992, an overwhelming 70% of Mississippians voted to include this right in our constitution. For the past three decades, citizens in Mississippi enjoyed the constitutional right to place issues we deemed worthy directly on the ballot. The process was very difficult, as it should be.
Since 1992, there were 76 attempts to pass ballot initiatives and only three issues triumphed: Voter ID, Imminent Domain, and Medical Marijuana. The issues had to be overwhelmingly popular in Mississippi in order for them to survive the rigorous nature of our referendum process.
The Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative process in 2021 over a procedural flaw as it is no longer possible to collect signatures from the required five congressional districts as we now only have four congressional districts. That ruling took away our ability to exercise a right that is still clearly enumerated in the Mississippi Constitution as a power reserved to the people. We are the only state that ever has had a voter initiative process and lost it.
Mississippi voters deserve to have our right restored, and that’s why this issue needs to be pushed to the forefront of the debate stage in our upcoming election. Mississippi voters should hear how their candidates for office feel about the restoration of our constitutional right.
The Legislature has attempted to restore this right during both of the last two legislative sessions. However, an agreement has not been reached and the voters are no closer to having our rights restored. The media and the public need to continue to keep this issue at the top of our elected leaders’ minds to show them how significant this process is for voters.
We are challenging the media to help us with this task by making sure the ballot initiative is part of the discussion surrounding candidates and their platforms.
Our organization is Ballot Access Mississippi (BAM), a nonpartisan group working to revive our ballot initiative process. This constitutional right must be restored for our people. With a grassroots network reaching every corner of the state, we are driving change together. The initiative process holds incredible significance for all voters, and our organization is dedicated to ensuring the Legislature passes a new law in 2024 that will reestablish our constitutional right.