A health care worker signs a petition to get Medicaid expansion placed the 2022 ballot. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

The “Yes on 76” campaign to expand Medicaid in Mississippi through a ballot initiative has been officially suspended — a pro forma move since the state Supreme Court last week nullified the state’s ballot initiative process with a ruling striking down medical marijuana Initiative 65.

The campaign, backed by the Mississippi Hospital Association and other groups, had just kicked off its drive last week to gather 106,000 signatures and put expansion on the 2022 midterm ballot. But the Supreme Court on Friday ruled the state’s ballot initiative process is “unworkable and inoperative” unless and until lawmakers and voters fix state law and the constitution. The ruling also halts initiative drives to allow a vote on the retired state flag with a Confederate battle emblem on it, to legalize recreational marijuana, to enact early voting and to adopt term limits for politicians.

READ MORE: Mississippi Supreme Court overturns medical marijuana Initiative 65, kills ballot initiative process

Some lawmakers and many voters are calling on Gov. Tate Reeves to call the Legislature back into session to deal with both issues. He said he’s open to the idea, but is “a long way” from making that decision.

In a statement Wednesday, the Medicaid expansion campaign said: “We fully support the call for a special legislative session to restore the constitutional right of Mississippians to vote directly on the issues of importance, including Medicaid expansion, and we will pursue every avenue possible to restore the rights of voters in this state.”

READ MORE: ‘Human issue, not political’: Medicaid expansion ballot drive begins

The group said it will also continue to urge lawmakers and the governor to expand Medicaid to cover more than 200,000 working poor uninsured Mississippians.

“Our broad coalition of doctors, nurses, businesses and faith leaders and voters from across the political spectrum is not going away,” the statement said. “We will keep up the fight until Mississippians receive the healthcare they need.”

READ MORE: ‘Let voters decide’: Mississippi Medicaid expansion ballot initiative filed


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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.