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A man seated in a committee meeting with others. He's wearing a grey suit and striped tie, and his upraised hand shows a gold wedding band.
Mississippi House Apportionment and Elections Chairman Rep. Noah Sanford, R-Collins (pictured), supported a bill in the 2024 legislative session to prevent election officials from changing polling places within 60 days of an election. But a Senate committee led by Sen. Jeremy England, R-Vancleave, killed the bill on April 2, 2024. On the same day, Sanford’s committee also killed a bill England introduced that would have made 15 days of early voting an option in Mississippi. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Editor’s Note | Democracy Dies in Politics

It’s that time in the Mississippi legislative session again when the House and Senate are massacring one another’s bills, leaving dreams to die and wishes unfulfilled. And democracy is caught in the crossfires once again as one bill after another that could have expanded suffrage and increased ballot access died.

The House unanimously passed a bill that Rep. Zakiya Summers, D-Jackson, wrote in March that would have heavily restricted election officials from moving polling places within 60 days of an election—such as the sudden polling-place changes we reported that Hinds County election officials made just hours before polls opened in the August 2023 primaries. But the bill, which had support from House Apportionment and Elections Chairman Rep. Noah Sanford, R-Collins, died after Senate Elections Committee Chairman Sen. Jeremy England, R-Vancleave, declined to bring it up for a vote before an April 2 deadline.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that Sen. England authored in March that would have made universal early voting an option for 15 days before an election; it died in the Senate without a vote after Rep. Sanford chose not take it up for a vote in his House committee by the April 2 deadline. That left Mississippi along with Alabama, Delaware and New Hampshire as the only states with no early-voting options.

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill authored by Rep. Kabir Karriem, D-Columbus, in March that would have restored voting rights to people convicted of nonviolent crimes—specifically those listed as disenfranchising in an 1890 Jim Crow provision still in the Mississippi Constitution that were chosen because white supremacist lawmakers thought Black people were most likely to commit those crimes. But it died in the Senate after Senate Constitution Chairwoman Sen. Angela Burks Hill, R-Picayune, chose not to take it up for a vote by the April 2 deadline.

Meanwhile, both the House and Senate have killed one another’s bills to restore the right of citizens to put issues on the ballot and vote on them, with the only remaining ballot initiative restoration bill dying in the Senate on April 2. Despite agreements on things like not restoring a full initiative process and preventing voters from changing the state’s near total abortion ban, this marks the third year the two chambers have failed to bring the ballot initiative back because of disagreements on other specifics.

As a news organization, our job is not to decide which bills should pass and which should fail, though we do believe it is good when public servants debate how best to grow and increase democracy.

We fight to protect and strengthen democracy in different ways, such as working to ensure voters know what the issues are and where candidates stand; making sure citizens know where their polling places are and when they change; fact-checking misleading claims from elected officials; and informing voters steps their lawmakers are taking that could affect elections, ballot access and the right to vote. And that’s what we’ll keep doing throughout the 2024 election cycle and beyond.

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