Commission to redesign Mississippi state flag will decide among five finalists on September 2

At the election on November 3, 2020, Mississippi voters will be shown a colored picture of a new proposed state flag. The proposed flag cannot include the Confederate Battle Flag and must include the words “In God We Trust.” Electors will vote “Yes” to adopt the new flag or “No” to oppose adopting the new flag. If the new proposed flag is rejected by voters, the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag will reconvene again, design another flag, and allow voters to approve or reject it at a special election in November 2021.

House Bill 1796, which was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Tate Reeves (R) on June 30, 2020, removed the official status of the state flag, which had contained the Confederate battle cross. Mississippi became the only state with a state flag containing the Confederate battle cross after Georgia had removed it from its state flag in 2001.

On June 27, 2020, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) tweeted, “The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it.” State Representative Robert Johnson III (D) said, “It is a symbol of terror in the Black community. It is a symbol of oppression in the Black community and it is a symbol of slavery. Everything that has been devastating to African Americans and to especially African Americans in the South, everything that has been a complete and utter disaster for us, that flag represents.” Johnson said the protests against racism after Floyd’s death created “a perfect storm” that spurred the state legislature to act in removing the state flag.

Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) said, “I can see where any symbol can be subject to misinterpretation… I’m going to come down on the side of history and tradition.” A group called Let Mississippi Vote said that it will file an initiative petition seeking to let Mississippi voters decide if they want to keep the flag with the Confederate battle cross or change the design. To appear on the 2022 ballot, the group would need to collect 106,190 valid signatures and submit them by early October 2021.

House Bill 1796 established the nine-member Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, tasked with designing a new state flag. The bill provided that “the new design for the Mississippi State Flag shall honor the past while embracing the promise of the future.”

The public was able to submit flag designs (either by mail or email) to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) until August 1, 2020. Flag designs needed to adhere to North American Vexillological Association standards (be simple enough that a child could draw it from memory; use meaningful symbolism; use two or three basic colors; not use lettering or seals; and be distinctive or be related). The commission received around 3,000 flags that met the criteria.

By August 7, 2020, the nine commissioners each needed to choose 25 flags to advance to the second round. On August 14, 2020, the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag narrowed down the number of potential flags to nine. The designs were posted on the MDAH’s website for public view. The commission met on August 18 and selected five flags to move forward. The final five flags were set to be printed on fabric for commissioners to view at the meeting set for August 25. The top five flags will be offered for public comment beginning on August 25 through September 2. The commission is set to select a final flag design and submit it to the legislature and the governor on September 2.