Mississippians made their voices heard yesterday in not only national races, but on several state issues. Voters were presented with three referendums on their ballot, two contested Mississippi Supreme Court races and one state House of Representatives special election.
The first referendum, Initiative 65, gave citizens the opportunity to weigh in on creating a medical marijuana program in Mississippi. Two questions were presented to voters – whether they wanted a medical marijuana program to be added to Mississippi’s constitution, then whether they wanted the citizen’s initiative or the legislative alternative. The majority of Mississippi voters answered yes to both questions. Initiative 65 adds seven pages to the Mississippi Constitution, creating a medical marijuana program to be administered by the Mississippi Department of Health.
Initiative 47 was placed on the ballot by the Mississippi Legislature with the intent of changing how statewide officials are elected. Historically, Mississippi’s statewide officials were elected by a majority of the electorate, but were also required to win a majority of Mississippi’s House districts. If no one candidate received a majority, the election was decided by the Mississippi House of Representatives. The change suggested was prompted by a lawsuit claiming this Jim Crow-era practice was not legal. Initiative 47 amends the constitution to change the requirements where winners only have to receive a simple majority of the vote. If no candidate receives a majority vote, then there will be a runoff election. Mississippi voters passed this referendum soundly.
The third referendum was a decision on the new Mississippi flag. During the 2020 Mississippi Legislative Session, the House and Senate retired the 1894 flag and created a commission to design a proposed new state flag. The proposed new flag, titled the “In God We Trust” flag, was on the ballot. It was also approved by a large margin.
The Mississippi Supreme Court had two contested elections. The first election in North Mississippi (District 3) between incumbent Justice Josiah Coleman and Chancery Judge Percy Lynchard was won by Coleman. The second election in Central Mississippi (District 1) was between Justice Kenny Griffis (appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to fill the vacancy of Chief Justice William Waller) and Judge Latrice Westbrooks, who currently serves on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. The Griffis-Westbrooks race has not been called by the AP at this point, but Griffis holds a slight lead in the race.
This spring, Rep. Billy Andrews left a vacancy in House District 87 (comprised of Forrest and Lamar counties) after his resignation from the Mississippi Legislature. Joseph “Bubba” Tubb and Matthew Conoly were on the ballot to fill this position. Neither candidate received a majority vote during the election and will face each other in a runoff on Nov. 24.