Mississippi voters will be asked on the November ballot whether they want to legalize medical marijuana in the state.
But voting on the issue will be complicated thanks to a legislative addition to an otherwise simple question on the ballot.
A group of Mississippians utilized the state’s ballot initiative process to put the question on a statewide ballot. That process, completed in 2019, required about 100,000 petition signatures from Mississippians across the state.
But after years of balking at the issue at the Capitol, lawmakers opted earlier this year to place an alternative to the citizen-sponsored medical marijuana initiative on the ballot.
Under the complex laws governing the state’s initiative process, there will be a question on the ballot asking voters whether they are for either the citizen-sponsored initiative or the legislative alternative, or if they are against both.
Regardless of how people vote on that question, they still will be allowed to cast a vote for either the citizen-sponsored Initiative 65 or the legislative alternative.
But the caveat is that if a majority of voters do not vote yes on the first question, saying they support at least one of the options, then both Initiative 65 and the legislative alternative are dead. But if a majority of voters support at least one of the two options, then the proposal that gets the most votes on the second question passes.
Another stipulation is that the winning proposal also must receive votes equaling 40% of the total votes cast in the election.
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There will be two other proposals on the Nov. 3 ballot, but voting on them will not be nearly as complicated.
One proposal will ask voters whether they want to make the flag recommended by a commission created by the Legislature the official flag of the state.
When the Legislature voted to retire the state’s 126-year-old flag in June because it included the controversial Confederate battle emblem as part of its design, the Legislature also created a commission to make a recommendation on a new flag.
The Legislature mandated that the commission recommendation include the words “In God We Trust,” but not the Confederate symbol in its design. If voters reject the commission’s recommendation, the group will be tasked with developing another recommendation to place before the voters in 2021.
The other proposal on the ballot, if approved by voters, will remove language from the Constitution sending elections for statewide offices to the House to decide if no candidate obtains a majority of the popular votes and the most votes in a majority of the 122 House districts.
The provision was placed in the state’s 1890s Constitution to ensure African Americans, then a majority in the state, were not elected to statewide office. The language was recently the subject of a lawsuit, prompting the Legislature to pass the resolution to remove the language. But the approval of the voters also is needed to change the Constitution.
Under the proposal, if no candidate for statewide office receives a majority of the votes, a runoff will be held between the top two vote-getters.
Only two other states — Louisiana and Georgia — require a runoff if the winning candidate does not obtain a majority of the popular vote in the general election.