/The old state flag with the Confederate battle emblem isn’t dead just yet

The old state flag with the Confederate battle emblem isn’t dead just yet

The 2021 legislative session begins in January. During that time, legislators must ratify state flag that voters approved on November 3. The bill that was passed this summer, which removed the old flag and created a commission to design a new design (the “In God We Trust”) to be approved by voters on Nov. 3. It also included a small provision that required legislators to ratify voters’ action. This means that lawmakers will need to take at least one additional vote on the flag during the fast approaching legislative session. 2001 was the second failed attempt to change the state’s flag. In a referendum, the voters were given the option of either the old flag or a new design suggested by a commission. That year, the Legislature passed a bill that stated that the flag that voters approve would become the state’s official flag without any further action from the Legislature. The old flag was retained by voters in overwhelming numbers in 2001. The bill that was approved this year says that “the Legislature shall enact the new Mississippi state flag design into law once the voters have approved it.” However, the courts have ruled the word “shall”, which does not force legislators do anything that they don’t want to do. Many legislators found it difficult to vote on the flag change this summer. Several lawmakers took heat in their own districts for voting for it. This raises the question as to why the bill contained language that forced legislators to vote again on the contentious issue. The easier option would have been for the people to vote on a new flag and ratify it as official. Concerns were raised over Alcorn v. Hamer, an 1861 Supreme Court case. Some suggested that the decision in Alcorn v. Hamer could be read to mean it was illegal for the Legislature not to allow the people to vote on general legislation. Despite all the controversy over the replacement of the flag, there are good reasons to believe that the ratification by the Legislature of the new flag during the 2021 session will not be more than a formality. It may even happen very early in the session. The new flag was voted in preference by more Mississippians than President Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde Smith on Nov. 3. The new flag received more votes than the medical marijuana initiative, which got more votes than Trump or Hyde-Smith. The only item on the ballot that received more votes than the flag was the proposal to amend the Constitution to eliminate the requirement for candidates for statewide office in order to get the majority of popular votes. The proposal received 957.420 votes (or 79.2%) in unofficial returns. Meanwhile, the flag garnered 939.585 votes (or 73.3%). Trump received 756,731 votes or 57.5%. The old state flag and the electoral provision that was repealed were both remnants of the 1890s when Mississippi’s white power structure attempted to deny basic rights to African Americans. Black Mississippians were then the majority in the state and this electoral provision was put in place to prevent them from running for statewide office. The Confederate battle emblem was placed on the state’s flag at the same time as the Civil War, which saw Southerners fighting to preserve slavery. The controversy is not over even if the Legislature ratifies the new flag in 2021 as was expected. Let Mississippi Vote’s political committee will try to get the approximately 100,000 signatures needed to put a proposal back onto the ballot. This would allow voters to choose from four flags, one of which is the 126-year-old banner. The clock will begin to tick on the one year time period in which supporters of the ballot initiative must gather signatures to place their flag proposal on the ballot. This will likely happen later in the month or early next. It remains to be seen if Mississippians will vote again on this contentious issue, after voting in overwhelming numbers for a new flag on November 3.