On Friday, Mississippi’s conservative-dominated state Supreme Court obliterated the state’s entire ballot initiative process by striking it down on the most dubious technicality. In the process, the court invalidated a 2020 initiative that voters had passed to legalize medical marijuana, which will also have the effect of killing an ongoing effort to adopt early voting and one launched on Tuesday to expand Medicaid. The court’s ruling in favor of conservative activists, which did not break down neatly along ideological lines, also opens the door for every initiative approved by voters in the last two decades to be invalidated (though not measures that lawmakers themselves had put on the ballot).
Under provisions of the state constitution adopted in the 1990s, organizers must gather signatures from each of the state’s five congressional districts in order to qualify for the ballot. However, because the state lost a congressional district in the 2000 round of reapportionment, the court ruled that it’s now impossible to comply with that requirement because the state only sends four members to Congress. Sign up! Get the Voting Rights Roundup over emailNot in the US?
Most preposterously, the majority opined, “It is wholly within the realm of possibility that the drafters foresaw or even hoped for a drop in congressional representation that would render the ballot-initiative process unworkable,” a line of reasoning that simply beggars belief.
“Because Mississippi lost a congressional district, the entire state legal code based around congressional districts is invalid” is the “fuck you do something about it” style of politics in which American conservatism specializes. This is outrageous, obscene, and jaw-dropping. And from one of the states that brought you an interpretation of the Fifteenth Amendment that included the Grandfather Clause, it’s just another chapter in an ignominious history.