Voters should be able to count on representatives

Published 9:12 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

Mississippians’ best recourse for getting action on an issue when the state’s legislature is uncooperative or uninterested has been through a ballot initiative.

Now, the future of that ballot initiative is in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court is hearing a case brought against the successful medical marijuana ballot initiative of 2020, which 74 percent of voters approved.

Getting an issue on the ballot isn’t an easy task, which is why few have been successful. The constitution requires petitioners get more than 100,000 signatures. And, an equal number of those signatures must come from each congressional district.

The medical marijuana initiative’s challenger, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, who is a frequent Natchez visitor and at one time owned a home here, says the ballot initiative was unconstitutional because the language in the constitution reads that an equal number of signatures on the initiative must come from each of the state’s five congressional districts. Problem is, the 2000 census reduced the state’s congressional districts from five to four. The language in the constitution was not updated to reflect that change.

That seems like it’s splitting hairs to us. Yet, if the high court agrees with Butler, where does that leave the residents of Mississippi?

The state’s house and senate increasingly votes in ways to make the members’ political party or special interest happy, rather than the constituents they are elected to represent.

Case in point is this: Mississippi residents overwhelmingly would like to see the state expand Medicaid in order for the many working Mississippians who cannot afford health care can be covered. The Republican-led legislature has stubbornly refused to take such an action because their party is against it for political reasons.

Therefore, a group who wants to see Medicaid expanded is launching a ballot initiative to circumvent the state’s legislature.

It seems like all of this could be avoided if elected representatives would simply vote in the way their constituents want them to vote. After all, they were elected to represent the people of Mississippi.

It’s time for our legislators to represent Mississippi, not their party leaders in Washington.