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The 2023 legislative session began on January 3, 2023. As we work to protect, defend, and expand civil rights and civil liberties for all Mississippians in the hallways, meeting rooms, and chambers of the State Capitol, we need you to stand with us to make our voices heard.
At key moments during the legislative session, we will be calling on you to help us push for and fight back against any attacks that may arise. Sign up to recieve our action alerts so you can be a part of the movement with us.
Here is what we hope to accomplish in 2023:
1. Expand Access to Voting
Voting is not just the means to freedom but a freedom in and of itself and one that some of us have had access to for longer than others. When we vote, we are the ones who drive our communities and country forward. When we vote, we protect our future and that of our communities.
Mississippi is the only state without both online registration and no-excuse early voting. But, no-excuse early voting provides convenience and flexibility for voters. And online voter registration increases the accuracy of voter rolls.
Voting should be equally accessible for all citizens, no matter where they live, the color of their skin or how much money they make.
- Online voter registration
- No-excuse early voting
- Automatic Voter Registration at Age 18
2. Ballot Initiative Restoration
Mississippi has been without a ballot initiative process since May 2021, when the state Supreme Court struck down the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in November 2020 and the entire ballot initiative process. The court ruled the process invalid because language in the state Constitution mandated that the required number of signatures necessary to place an issue on the ballot be gathered equally from five congressional districts. Mississippi has had only four congressional districts since losing one as a result of the 2000 Census.
- A ballot initiative process that would allow us to propose new statues and amend or repeal existing statues
3. Marijuana-related Expungement
In 2022, lawmakers legalizaed medical marijuana to benefit businesses, medical professionals, and patients. But we must also ensure that the legacy of marijuana criminalization does not prevent the equal enjoyment of this new right.
One out of five individuals in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections are incarcerated due to a drug offense. Without accompanying expungement, Mississippians will be burdened with a criminal record for a crime that no longer exists. We should avoid grossly imbalanced outcomes for Mississippians who deserve to benefit from medical marijuana legalization equally.
- A marijuana-related expungement policy
4. Voting Rights Restoration
Mississippi is one of only ten states where voting rights are not automatically restored to people convicted of felonies after completion of their prison sentence. Under its 1890 Constitution, Mississippians are stripped of their right to vote if they are convicted of certain crimes. People returning from prison do have the right to request voting rights restoration. But the process to regain the right vote involves a complicated and inconsistent procedure through the Mississippi Legislature.
We believe in second chances, and we need to ensure that our voting laws support that too. People returning to our communities are our neighbors and friends. They are people we work alongside to make our state a better place. They deserve a second chance to reintegrate.
It is long overdue to end the current process - one that is arbitrary, politically motivated, and practically unworkable as intended by the drafters of the 1890 Constitution.
- A constitutional amendment to end the practice of voter disenfranchisement
- Automatic restoration of voting rights
5. Protect LGBTQ Rights
Mississippi has its share of policies that subject LGBTQ+ people to discrimination from the prejudiced religious liberty accommodations act to the most recent anti-transgender student athlete bill targeting transgender children by prohibiting transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports. We must protect this vulnerable community from hateful laws.
A safe and fair state that welcomes and respects LGBTQ individuals
6. Reproductive Justice
An overwhelming majority of Mississippians agree that the current state legislature is failing to invest in the well-being of women and children. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade, Mississippi’s reproductive healthcare has become even more inaccessible, unaffordable, and nearly obsolete. With one of the highest maternal mortality rates not just in the United States but across all developed nations, Mississippi is an inherently dangerous place to give birth.
In response to the Supreme Court decision, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann formed the Senate Study Group on Women, Children, and Families. But, the committee has ignored that a large portion of Mississippi women and children live in poverty without adequate access to healthcare and reproductive choices.
Over three-fourths of Mississippians support the expansion of Medicaid despite Governor Reeves repeatedly going on the record to oppose it. If the legislative committees on improving the state for women and children are not discussing Medicaid coverage as a solution, they are continuing to fail the state.
To that end, ACLU of Mississippi will continue to join coalition partners in the fight to improve Mississippi’s maternal and reproductive healthcare system.
ACLU Mississippi will also fight against any further attacks on a person’s right to make reproductive choices, including dangerous enforcement of abortion laws and putting more rights at risk – rights like free speech.
Adequate and accessible maternal and reproductive healthcare
7. Voter Protection
The right to vote is the most precious and necessary element of this country’s democracy, but excessive barriers and administrative hurdles make it increasingly difficult for American citizens to exercise this right. With one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, Mississippi is a state in need of reforms to encourage eligible voters to register, not block them from doing so. Without any supporting evidence or positive precedent, DPOC [documentary proof of citizenship] bills promise only to impose unnecessary, unsustainable, and unconstitutional costs on both voters and the State of Mississippi.
In the 2022 legislative session, HB 1510 attempted to introduce a harmful DPOC law that would have authorized the Secretary of State to audit election procedures in any county in Mississippi in addition to requiring a random audit of each county over a four-year period. Thankfully, these provisions were significantly reduced before HB 1510’s final passage into law. Rather than audit existing registered voters, the new law only requires a citizenship check through the Statewide Elections Management System for new voters (people submitting an application to register to vote). This is a significant improvement from the original bill, but is still a step in the wrong direction, creating unnecessary administrative hurdles that will contribute nothing to election security while incurring costs for taxpayers and aspiring voters.
We DON'T need:
Barriers to voting that have no proven connection to election security
8. No New Crimes
New crimes and harsher penalties are proposed every year, wasting lawmakers’ time and taxpayer dollars without any contribution to public safety. The Mississippi Legislature has made bold strides with broad bipartisan support to improve the state’s criminal justice system. Legislative actions over the past several years, like parole reform and the creation of a Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force, have been taken to improve public safety and ensure the efficient spending of taxpayer dollars. Yet, new crimes and harsher penalties pull us ten steps back with every hard-fought step forward.
Mississippi does not need these laws. Mississippi does not need more people in prisons and jails, taking money out of the economy and feeding it into the mass incarceration machine. Our law enforcement officers don’t need more laws to enforce, our prosecutors don’t need more people to prosecute, and our communities don’t need more risk of being torn apart. Mississippi needs data-driven policies that are smart on crime. We need public money to serve the public good. And while we work in coalition to make these necessary reforms a reality, we ask only that lawmakers not make things worse.
We DON’T need:
- New crimes
- Harsher penalties