A year and a half later and Mississippi still doesn’t have a ballot initiative process

Published: Nov. 14, 2022 at 7:53 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s been a year and a half of limbo for the future of the state’s ballot initiative process, and election results from around the country are a reminder of what Mississippi doesn’t have as an option.

The legislature tried to revive a version of the ballot initiative process this past session. It would’ve only allowed the people to change state law and not the constitution and would’ve given some opportunities for lawmakers to come back and make changes under certain circumstances. However, it hit roadblocks that leave no option at all.

Let Mississippi Vote, a state flag-related initiative, and Yes on 76, the Medicaid expansion measure, are among the campaigns stopped in their tracks on gathering signatures in 2021.

“Other states have the opportunity to petition their government,” said Dan Carr, founder of Let Mississippi Vote. “I wish we had the same in Mississippi. In four months, we had over 54,000 signatures. We was well on our way to get the number of signatures that we needed.”

“We certainly had the numbers. The polls were there to indicate it,” explained Tim Moore, President and CEO of the Mississippi Hospital Association. “We were just kind of collateral damage. When the battle and issue process blew up, we were sitting on the sidelines, and we kind of got pulled into it.”

Several states passed ballot measures a week ago on controversial topics. Maryland and Missouri voted to legalize recreational marijuana, Nebraska to raise the minimum wage, and South Dakota voters approved Medicaid expansion by way of a ballot initiative.

“If you look at those, that’s seven out of the last eight that put Medicaid expansion on the ballot [and] passed it,” noted Moore on the South Dakota vote. “Pretty impressive. If you can just get it there, the people do the right thing.”

But the Hospital Association and others haven’t been able to “get it there” here in Mississippi. It’s become a more urgent issue that can’t wait for the process to play out.

“The biggest concern we have right now is [to] find a way to keep hospitals open,” he added. “If we had the initiative in place today, it would still be a challenge.”

All of the initiative groups will also look for legislative action because it could be a while before an initiative process returns.

“So in 2023, say they reinstate the ballot initiative process,” described Carr. “Well, we had to vote on it as the people because it is a constitutional amendment. So we had to vote on it in November of 2023. So it wouldn’t even be good until 2024. Then we would have to start if we wanted to, you know, put say whatever you want to put on the ballot. We would have to start that process all the way back over.”

The Secretary of State has posted on Twitter that his office plans to again push for initiative process to be passed at the legislature. They return on January 3. Last session, the House and Senate couldn’t come to an agreement on the number of signatures they thought should be required.

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