Officials ask public to submit design proposals for new Mississippi state flag. What’s next?

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

Capitol employees remove the old state flag in Jackson on Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

Officials asked the public to submit design proposals for a new state flag on Monday, the first step in the process of adopting a new Mississippi flag.

Since lawmakers voted in late June to remove the old state flag — the last in the nation featuring the Confederate battle emblem — Mississippi has been without an official state flag.

But Monday’s call for design submissions by officials at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on Monday officially put the process of adopting a new flag into motion. The deadline for public design submissions is Aug. 13.

The proposals will be considered by a nine-member commission, which will be appointed by Gov. Tate Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn. Those appointees will be made and announced by July 15.

The new flag must include the words “In God We Trust,” according to the law passed in late June, and it cannot include the Confederate battle emblem.

The commission will have until Sept. 14 to select a single new flag design. Voters will approve or reject that design in the Nov. 3 general election.

Should voters reject that design in November, the commission will decide a new option during the 2021 legislative session, and voters again would have to approve it on a statewide ballot before it is adopted.

Reeves, Hosemann and Gunn will each appoint three people to the commission. The governor’s three appointees must be representatives from the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Hosemann and Gunn face no specific commission appointment requirements.

The old flag, long a point of political contention in Mississippi, was seen by many as a symbol of hate. In 2001, Mississippi voters decided nearly 2-to-1 to keep the divisive emblem on the state flag, solidifying its place on the official state banner for nearly two decades. For years, supporters of changing the flag have not been able to garner the simple majority needed to change the controversial banner through the normal legislative process.

But the violent death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests that reached Mississippi and shined new light on the state flag. And in recent weeks, immense pressure mounted from religious, business, civic, university, sports and other leaders to remove the Confederate emblem from the flag.

A growing list of businesses, cities, counties and other groups either stopped flying the flag or asked leaders to change it. Religious leaders spoke out, saying changing the flag was a “moral issue.”  The NCAA, SEC, and Conference USA also took action to ban postseason play in Mississippi until the flag was changed.