Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Greenwood Commonwealth. June 15, 2024.

Editorial: Keep Talking On Felon Voting Rights

Republican majorities in the state House and Senate have different opinions on whether Mississippi should change the way it decides whether people convicted of any of 22 felonies should be permanently barred from voting.

Currently, a person who lost the right to vote must convince two-thirds of each chamber, plus the governor, to restore his or her voting privileges. Very few of these bills pass in a given legislative session. A second path is through a pardon by the governor, but none of those have been issued since 2012.

It is certainly true that the best way to keep your voting rights is not to commit crimes. But it also is true that people can be redeemed after making a stupid mistake. If we are to be serious about integrating felons back into society as productive citizens, that goal should omit a lifetime penalty for at least some of those whose crime disqualified them from voting.

During this year’s legislative session, the House passed a bill by a wide margin to create an automatic process to restore voting rights for people convicted of nonviolent offenses on the list of 22 felonies. But the bill got referred to two committees in the Senate and died.

A recent story by Mississippi Today doesn’t offer much hope that the political situation will change. House Speaker Jason White believes his members will continue to push for felony voting rights reform on the theory that it would reduce the prison recidivism rate and give former inmates a second chance to make something of their life.

The Senate is nowhere close to that. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann has said he personally favors restoring voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed all the terms of their sentences. But he does not believe his members would agree to the House proposal, and added, “My senators want to vote individually and go through them one at a time.”

Sure, lawmakers have plenty of time for that. It sounds more like a stalling tactic on the Senate’s part. Felony voting restoration bills typically get considered at the end of a legislative session, when there’s a rush to set a budget and get compromise bills through conference committees.

Now that you mention it, the conference committee strategy of finding compromise is a good idea for the felony voting rights issue. Both the House majority and Lt. Gov. Hosemann want to figure out a way to return the vote to nonviolent felons. There may be an answer somewhere if the Legislature will keep discussing it.


Columbus Dispatch. June 13, 2024.

Editorial: At US Capitol, Mississippians are still represented by Confederates, for now

One of highlights of a trip to Washington D.C., is the U.S. Capitol and the National Statuary Hall Collection, which features two prominent historical figures from each state chosen by state legislators.

The idea for the statues was approved by Congress in 1864 as the Civil War was coming to an end. The first of what are now 99 statues(Virginia has just one) was placed in Statuary Hall in 1870.

The statues are a glimpse into the past and what people were esteemed at the time they arrived at the Capitol.

For many Southern states whose contributions came at the height of Jim Crow rule, the selections are an embarrassment because they honor known Confederate officials, most of whom were slave-owners. Slowly those statues are being replaced. Alabama replaced the statue Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry in favor of Helen Keller in 2009. Florida replaced the statue of Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith with a statue of civil rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune in 2022. Arkansas is the most recent to make a change, replacing the statue of Uriah Milton Rose with a statue of Civil Rights icon Daisy Lee Gatson Bates. Bates’ statue was added in May. Arkansas will also replace its other statue, that of James Paul Clark, a former governor with no ties to the Confederacy. A statue of Johnny Cash will soon take that spot.

As of the moment, Daisy Bates’ statue stands next to Mississippi’s Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. That juxtaposition only magnifies the embarrassment for Mississippi. The state’s other statue, that of J.Z. George, a notorious Confederate who is considered the Father of Jim Crow, isn’t any better, George’s own descendants called for his statue to be removed.

For years, Democrats in the state legislature have filed bills to have the statues of Davis and George replaced. It has gotten nowhere with the Republicans, who hold a super-majority in both chambers.

But a flicker of hope has emerged recently. Republican Fred Shanks, the House Rules Committee chairman, told Mississippi Today he expects legislation to remove the statues to get a full hearing in the House in the 2025 session.

Included in those discussions would likely include a process for selecting two honorees. It could be done by a committee set up for that purpose (which was the process for changing the state flag) or polling the citizens to determine their preferences.

The candidates are many, among them Elvis Presley, B.B. King, William Faulkner, Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer. Each of them tell a far better story about our state than the two Confederates whose statues are an embarrassing reminder of Mississippi at its worst.

We urge legislators to support this effort.