Stories about Mississippi

Filing deadline approaches for Mississippi state legislative special elections

Candidates interested in running in special elections for Mississippi state Senate Districts 32 and 38 have until Sept. 13 to file. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 2. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote in the general elections, runoffs will be held on Nov. 23.

In District 32, the special election was called after Sampson Jackson (D) retired on June 30. He served from 1992 to 2021. 

The District 38 seat became vacant when Tammy Witherspoon (D) was elected as mayor of Magnolia, Mississippi. Witherspoon served from 2016 to 2021.

Mississippi has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the Mississippi state Senate by a margin of 36 to 14 with two vacancies.

As of September 2021, 57 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Mississippi held 42 special elections from 2010 to 2020.

Special elections in two Mississippi Senate districts set for Nov. 2

Election officials have scheduled the special elections for the District 32 and District 38 seats in the Mississippi State Senate for Nov. 2. The seats became vacant after Sampson Jackson (D) and Tammy Witherspoon (D) resigned on June 30. There are no primaries, and a general runoff election will be held on Nov. 23 if no candidate receives a majority of the vote. The filing deadline is on Sept. 13.

Voters reelect mayor and 5 of 7 city council members in Jackson, Miss.

The city of Jackson, Miss., held a general election for mayor and all seven seats on the city council on June 8. A primary was held on April 6, and a primary runoff was held on April 27. The filing deadline for this election was Feb. 6.

Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba won re-election with 69.3% of the vote in the general election, defeating Republican candidate Jason Wells and independent candidates Les Tannehill, Charlotte Reeves, and Shafeqah Lodree. Antar Lumumba first took office in 2017.

In the city council elections, Ward 1 incumbent Ashby Foote (R) and Ward 2 incumbent Angelique Charbonet Lee (D) won re-election after running unopposed. Ward 3 incumbent Kenneth Stokes (D), Ward 6 incumbent Aaron Banks (D), and Ward 7 incumbent Virgi Lindsay (D) won re-election after defeating one opponent. 

Democratic newcomers Brian Grizzell and Vernon Hartley won election to the Ward 4 and 5 seats, respectively, after running unopposed in the general election. Grizzell and Hartley advanced from both the primary and primary runoff. Hartley defeated incumbent Charles Tillman (D) in the Ward 5 primary runoff, while Grizzell defeated Jacqueline Amos (D) in the Ward 4 primary runoff. Ward 4 was an open seat after incumbent De’Keither Stamps (D) decided not to run for re-election.

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Mississippi Supreme Court overturns 2020 medical marijuana initiative, says the state’s initiative process can’t be used

On May 14, 2021, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to overturn Ballot Measure 1 (Initiative 65). The medical marijuana initiative was approved by 74% of voters at the 2020 general election.

The court ruled that the initiative should not have been placed on the ballot because the initiative petition did not comply with the signature distribution requirements in the Mississippi Constitution. The court held that any subsequent proceedings regarding the initiative are void. The ruling agreed with plaintiffs that the requirements in the constitution for an initiative petition were mathematically impossible to meet and have been since the state’s congressional districts were reduced from five to four in 2001.

Initiative 65 was designed to allow medical marijuana to be recommended for patients with at least one of the 22 specified qualifying conditions including cancer, epilepsy or seizures, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Crohn’s disease, HIV, and more. Patients could have, under Initiative 65, possessed up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time. Marijuana sales under Initiative 65 would have been taxed at the state’s sales tax rate, which was 7% as of 2020.

On October 26, 2020, the City of Madison, Mississippi, filed the lawsuit in the Mississippi Supreme Court asking the court to invalidate Initiative 65. The city of Madison and Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler alleged that the Secretary of State unlawfully certified the measure in violation of Section 273 of Article 15 of the Mississippi Constitution. Section 273 states “The signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth ( 1/5 ) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.” The lawsuit argued, “Because Mississippi has four congressional districts, it is a mathematical certainty that the number of signatures submitted in support of Initiative Measure No. 65 from at least one of the four congressional districts exceeds 1/5 of the total number required. […] The Mississippi Legislature is aware of this mathematical impossibility … Despite the Legislature’s failure to propose an amendment to the voters, the Secretary of State nonetheless has followed an ‘amended’ Section 273(3) and has inserted ‘the last five-district congressional district plan’ into the text of the Constitution.”

The 1992 constitutional amendment that granted the power of citizen initiative in Mississippi required signatures to be collected evenly from all five congressional districts that existed at the time. During 2001 redistricting after the 2000 census, however, the number of congressional districts in the state was reduced to four. Based on a 2009 attorney general’s opinion, the secretary of state has used the five districts that existed before 2001 to apply the constitution’s distribution requirement.

The six justices wrote, “Because Initiative 65 was placed on the ballot without meeting the section 273(3) prerequisites for doing so, it was placed on the ballot in violation of the Mississippi Constitution. Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

The court’s dissenting opinion said, “[I]t stretches the bounds of reason to conclude that the Legislature in 1992, when drafting (the ballot initiative process) would have placed a poison pill within the language of the provision that would allow the provision and the right of the people to amend the constitution through initiative to be eviscerated at the whim of a federal injunction (on congressional districts) of such limited scope.”

Ken Newburger, Executive Director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said, “Patients will now continue the suffering that so many Mississippians voted to end. The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right. It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter.”

State Rep. Trey Lamar (R) said, “The language of Initiative 65 that would have gone into our constitution was not good for the people of Mississippi. I thank our Supreme Court for having the courage to rule according to the law and for protecting our citizens from the unintended consequences of Initiative 65. Now, we should craft a legitimate medical marijuana program that will truly help the people who would benefit from it without all of the unintended consequences that would have come with 65.”

Eleven initiatives have been filed targeting the 2022 ballot in Mississippi, including recreational marijuana legalization, Medicaid expansion, term limits, open primaries, and redistricting.

Two other initiatives (both in 2011) made it to the ballot and were approved since 2001 reapportionment. Initiative 27 was designed to require photo identification to vote. Initiative 31 prohibited the state of Mississippi and local governments from taking private property by eminent domain and then conveying it to other persons or businesses for a period of 10 years.

Mississippi becomes second state to open vaccinations to everyone over 16

All Mississippi residents over the age of 16 became eligible for vaccinations statewide on March 16. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) announced the change in a tweet on March 15. Before the change took effect, residents aged 50 and older had been eligible for vaccinations since March 4. Mississippi is the second state to open vaccinations up for anyone over the age of 16 statewide, after Alaska. 

Alaska opened vaccination appointments to everyone aged 16 and older statewide on March 9. Previously, those 55 and older had been eligible for appointments since March 3. 

Several other governors have announced dates for lifting restrictions on vaccine eligibility:

  • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced a revised timeline for vaccine distribution on March 15. Lamont said scheduling will open to all individuals ages 45 to 54 starting March 19. The state is targeting April 5 to open vaccinations to everyone age 16 or older.
  • Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced an updated timeline for vaccine distribution on March 12. The state is aiming to open eligibility to everyone 50 and older on April 1 and anyone 16 and older on May 1. 
  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced the state will expand vaccine eligibility to include everyone 16 and older on April 19.  
  • Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) announced on March 16 that everyone 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 1.
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced that residents 16 and older with medical conditions or disabilities will become eligible for a coronavirus vaccine on March 22. All residents 16 and older will become eligible on April 5.
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said on March 16 that all residents 16 and older will become eligible to receive a vaccine on March 29.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced on March 12 that everyone 16 and older will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting May 1.

Note: In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data in the map below details the loosest restrictions in each state and may not reflect statewide accessibility.

As of March 17, at least one county in each state allowed the following age groups to access the vaccine:

  • Four states allowed vaccinations for anyone 16+. (A limited number of counties in Michigan and Arizona allow individuals 16+ access to vaccinations. Mississippi and Alaska are the only states that permit vaccinations for people 16+ statewide).
  • One state allowed vaccinations for anyone 45+.
  • 11 states allowed vaccinations for anyone 50+ or 55+.
  • 33 states and Washington, D.C., allowed vaccinations for anyone 60+ or 65+.
  • One state allowed vaccinations for anyone 75+.

Mississippi lifts mask restrictions; Texas, Alabama announce dates for ending requirements

Thirty-nine states issued statewide mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the governors of Alabama and Texas announced dates for lifting statewide mask requirements, and the governor of Mississippi lifted the state’s regional mask requirement. As a result, six of the original thirty-nine states with statewide mask requirements have now lifted or announced dates to lift them.

Mississippi had a statewide mask requirement from Aug. 5-Sept. 30, 2020, followed by a regional mask requirement that applied in 75 of 82 counties. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) lifted the regional mask requirement on March 3, though the state still requires masks in K-12 school buildings.

Reeves’ order also lifted gathering restrictions for individuals. Large indoor venues like arenas with ticketed seating are limited to 50% seating capacity. Previously, only 10 people could gather indoors and 50 could gather outdoors.

On March 2, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order, effective March 10, ending the statewide mask mandate and allowing all businesses to open at 100% capacity. If COVID-19 hospitalizations get above 15% of hospital bed capacity in any of the state’s 22 hospital regions for seven consecutive days, then a county judge may impose some restrictions. Those restrictions cannot include capacity limits below 50%, however. The order also prohibits jurisdictions from penalizing people for not wearing face coverings. Texas’ mask order was first implemented July 3.

On March 4, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order, including the mask requirement, until 5:00 p.m. on April 9. Ivey said she will let the mask order expire on April 9. Ivey first issued the statewide mask requirement on July 16.

Thirty-five states currently have statewide mask orders, including all 23 states with Democratic governors and 12 out of the 27 states with Republican governors.

Eight candidates file to run for mayor of Jackson, Mississippi

The city of Jackson, Mississippi, will hold a partisan primary for mayor on April 6, 2021. The filing deadline for this election was February 6. If no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote in the primary election, a primary runoff election will be held on April 27 between the top two candidates. The general election is scheduled for June 8.

Incumbent Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Patty Patterson, and Kennetha Wilson are running in the Democratic primary. Ponto Downing and Jason Wells are running in the Republican primary. Independent candidates Shafeqah Lodree, Charlotte Reeves, and Les Tannehill will appear on the general election ballot.

Lumumba was elected the 53rd mayor of Jackson in 2017. He defeated incumbent Tony Yarber and seven other candidates in the May 2, 2017, Democratic primary election with 55% of the vote. He went on to win the general election with 92.9% of the vote.

Ballotpedia will also be covering the eight Jackson City Council seats that are on the ballot in 2021. Seven incumbents have filed for re-election.

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Three state legislative special elections to be decided in runoffs

Three state legislative seats up for special election in 2020 are still undecided as of November 20, 2020. All three are headed to runoff elections: Mississippi House of Representatives District 87 on November 24, Georgia State Senate District 39 on December 1, and Texas State Senate District 30 on December 19.

Although special state legislative elections in Mississippi are officially nonpartisan, it is the only seat that may result in a flipped seat. It was most recently held by Republican William Andrews. The Georgia race, previously held by Nikema Williams (D), is a special Democratic primary runoff that will not have a special general election. The Texas general runoff election features two Republican candidates running to replace Pat Fallon (R).

Eight state legislative seats have changed parties due to 2020 special elections: one seat flipped from Democratic to Republican, and seven seats flipped from Republican to Democratic. As of November 2020, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. 

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Runoff election in Mississippi House district to be held Nov. 24

A special general runoff election will be held on November 24 for District 87 in the Mississippi House of Representatives. The special general election took place on November 3, with the top two candidates advancing to the runoff. Candidates in Mississippi state legislative special elections run without party labels on the ballot.

Matthew Conoly and Joseph Tubb are running in the general runoff election. The seat became vacant after the resignation of William Andrews (R) on March 31, 2020. Andrews said that he resigned from the House in order to receive the pension that he earned while serving as a county judge. He had represented the district since January 7, 2020.

Mississippi legislators are elected to four-year terms, and elections are held in odd-numbered years. All seats in the state Senate and state House are next up for regular election on November 7, 2023.

Mississippi has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 36-16 margin and the state House by a 74-46 margin with one independent member and one vacancy.

As of November, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Results of Mississippi special general runoff elections

Special general runoff elections were held for Mississippi State Senate Districts 15 and 39 and Mississippi House of Representatives Districts 37 and 66 on Oct. 13, 2020. In Mississippi, special elections for state legislative offices are nonpartisan. The special general election for the four districts was held on Sept. 22, 2020. The filing deadline passed on Aug. 3, 2020.

In Senate District 15, Bart Williams won the special election with 53.6% of the vote and defeated Joyce Meek Yates. The special election was called after Gary Jackson (R) resigned on June 30, 2020. Jackson served from 2004 to 2020.

In Senate District 39, Jason Barrett won with 56.1% of the vote and defeated Bill Sones. The special election was called after Sally Doty (R) left office to become the executive director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff. She resigned on July 15, 2020. Doty served from 2012 to 2020.

In House District 37, Lynn Wright won with 63.8% of the vote and defeated David Chism. The special election was called after Gary Chism (R) resigned on June 30, 2020. Gary Chism served from 2000 to 2020.

In House District 66, De’Keither Stamps won with 61.5% of the votes and defeated Bob Lee Jr. The special election was called after Jarvis Dortch (D) resigned on July 2, 2020. Dortch served from 2016 to 2020.

As of October 2020, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Mississippi has held 36 state legislative special elections between 2010 and 2019.

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