JACKSON, Miss. – Today, the SPLC Action Fund released the following statement from Mississippi Policy Director Sonya Williams Barnes in response to the state legislature’s failure to restore a ballot initiative process despite broad bipartisan support:
“The refusal of state legislators to pursue a ballot initiative process is a slap in the face to Mississippians who overwhelmingly want a direct voice in their government. If state legislators truly believe in a government accountable to the people, they should restore a process that lets Mississippians propose ballot initiatives on whatever issues they see fit."
When instituted in 1992 by the Mississippi Legislature, the ballot initiative process required that petitioners gather signatures of one-fifth of the population from each of the five congressional districts to put a question on the ballot. The state lost a congressional seat in 2000, and ballot initiatives proposed and passed since then relied on congressional districts as they existed in the 1990s.
The Mississippi Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative process in a 6-3 decision in 2020, ruling that the process had been void since 2000 because of the reduction in congressional districts. Their ruling resulted from a challenge to a 2020 voter-approved medical marijuana ballot initiative.
The SPLC Action Fund has advocated for restoring a fully accessible ballot initiative process. Polls conducted by the SPLC Action Fund in July 2021 and February 2023 show overwhelming bipartisan support for restoring the state’s ballot initiative process.