Mississippi lawmakers want to restore ballot initiatives — but not for abortion – National & International News – THU 25Jan2024

Mississippi lawmakers want to restore ballot initiatives — but not for abortion

Many Mississippians know that for some years, voters in our state have been deprived of a key democratic means for citizens to weigh in on policy, namely ballot initiatives. The State Supreme Court ruled the current ballot initiative process invalid in 2021. In the process, the court also invalidated a new medical marijuana provision supported by 69% of Mississippi voters the previous fall. The problem? The ballot initiative process, dating from 1992, required signatures from 5 Mississippi congressional districts. Since the 2000 Census, Mississippi has only had four.

Our state lawmakers are at last getting to work to address this Catch 22. However, Republicans in the House want a special carve-put to prevent any ballot initiatives to change the state’s abortion laws.

It’s unclear how much popular support there is in Mississippi to overturn the state’s near-total ban on abortion, one of the strictest in the country. One poll from 2022 showed a slim majority of Mississippians disapproved of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision which allowed for the near-total abortion ban to take effect. Another poll from 2023 showed that 45% of Republican primary voters wanted to repeal the ban, while 44% wanted to keep it.

Regardless, our lawmakers don’t want to take any chances. Since Roe v. Wade was struck down in 2022, voters upheld the right to an abortion in every state where the the issue was put to a direct popular vote, even in red states like Kansas, Kentucky and Montana. This has put Republican lawmakers and public officials in their states in the embarrassing of finding ways to circumvent the will of the people.

So, why does the state’s abortion ban deserve a special protection from direct democracy? According to GOP Rep. Fred Shanks of Brandon, “The abortion issue has been an issue that the majority of the House has championed for the past decade. The House was the force that overturned Roe vs. Wade. It was no one else. It was us. And I just don’t think we want to be messing with it”. In other words, House Republicans don’t want anything to tarnish “their” victory in Dobbs.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann at least was willing to point out how absurdly antidemocratic this is. “If we’re going to do a ballot initiative that had enough people sign on it … then you ought to have a pretty clean ballot initiative. I mean, if we’re doing one and you can’t do a ballot (initiative) on any of these things, then why are you doing it at all?”

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