Lawmakers can set special election for ballot initiative fix at any date

Published 4:00 pm Friday, May 28, 2021

Votes by Mississippians on past efforts to amend the state Constitution have not been confined to November general elections.

Various media reports and some politicians have said in recent days that the earliest that Mississippi could vote to enshrine a ballot initiative process into the state Constitution would be November 2022, which is the next regularly scheduled statewide general election.

That is not accurate. Lawmakers can set a special statewide election on any day they choose — and there is precedent.

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Earlier this month, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the state’s ballot initiative process was invalid, effectively stripping Mississippians of changing the Constitution without the Legislature’s approval.

Talks of a special legislative session to pass a new ballot initiative process continue. Constitutional amendments require approval from two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature. If that threshold is met, voters must approve the amendment on a statewide ballot.

Because some reasoned the vote could not be held until November 2022, many have said that there is no need for Gov. Tate Reeves to call a special session this year to give legislators an opportunity to place a proposed constitutional amendment before the voters. They reasoned that can be done during the next regular session, which starts in January 2022.

But in June 1989, with no statewide general election already scheduled, the Legislature set a special election and placed three proposed changes to the Constitution on the ballot, including one removing references to a poll tax from the Constitution. The only three issues on the statewide ballot that June 20 were the proposed constitutional amendments.

The Constitution says that the resolution approved by the Legislature “may fix the date and direct the calling of the election.”