Mississippi State Legislators Undermine Voting Rights, Refuse to Restore Direct Democracy for Second Straight Year
Following 2021 Mississippi Supreme Court Ruling, Voters in Mississippi Still Have No Ability to Use Ballot Measures
Jackson, MS — For the second straight legislative session, Mississippi state legislators have refused to restore the state’s ballot measure process — leaving voters without the right to put issues on the statewide ballot themselves. Mississippians have now gone more than two years without a legal process in place for citizen-initiated ballot measures. A 2021 Mississippi Supreme Court decision overturned the state’s ballot measure process in response to a voter-passed measure to legalize medical marijuana, ruling that a new process must be passed by the legislature to account for a decrease in the number of congressional districts in the state.
In response to this news, Fairness Project Executive Director Kelly Hall issued the following statement:
“It’s disappointing but not at all surprising that politicians in Mississippi have once again allowed a shameful attack on democracy to stand. For two years now, Mississippi legislators have dragged their feet and let bills to restore direct democracy die without any meaningful discourse. The fact is that they are scared of the will of voters and don’t want Mississippians to be able to make their own choices on issues that matter. If these partisan politicians don’t believe in listening to voters, then they shouldn’t hold elected office. The Fairness Project stands with the organizers and advocates who are exploring every possible option for restoring direct democracy in Mississippi and will continue fighting for voters’ rights.”
Despite the inaction by the legislature, restoring direct democracy in Mississippi is extremely popular with voters. Recent polling from the Southern Poverty Law Center showed that 65% of voters across the political spectrum support restoring the citizen-initiated ballot measure process in Mississippi. Mississippi is also the only state where its ballot measure process has been invalidated by the courts out of 23 other states that have an active ballot measure process.
Mississippi state legislators are also increasingly polarized from voters on the issue of Medicaid expansion, which has been passed through the use of ballot measures in seven conservative states. A January poll showed that 80% of Mississipians, including 70% of Republicans, support expanding Medicaid in the state. Even legislators in North Carolina, one of last remaining holdouts, moved forward with Medicaid expansion on Thursday. Mississippi is ranked 49th in the country for overall health and 50th for health system performance, and its already high maternal mortality rate has been increasing.
“The loss of the ballot measure process in Mississippi was not only a major blow to direct democracy; it took the state backwards at a time when there is an urgent need to improve Mississippians’ quality of life,” Hall said. “This news today is especially disappointing given that Mississippi is one of the last remaining states to not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which voters have used ballot measures to pass in seven conservative states.”
The Fairness Project has won over 30 progressive ballot measures, including all seven Medicaid expansion campaigns, in addition to its work to defend the ballot measure process from attacks by extremist state legislators in South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri, and other states.