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ICYMI: Kelly Hall Warns Mississippi Ballot Measure Chaos Could Become Model for Disenfranchising Citizens

Executive Director of The Fairness Project Joins “Here Comes the Payne” Podcast to Discuss Overturned Ballot Measure in Mississippi, Threats to Direct Democracy

Washington, DC– Kelly Hall, the Executive Director of The Fairness Project spoke with the Here Comes the Payne Podcast about the Mississippi Supreme Court’s move to kill the state’s ballot measure process and similar threats to direct democracy across the country.  

Last fall, the people of Mississippi qualified, voted on, and overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure to decriminalize the use of marijuana for medical treatment. Seventy percent of voters approved the ballot measure. Then, a hyper-politicized Mississippi Supreme Court responded to a challenge to that ballot measure by not only ruling against the constitutionality of the measure, but invalidating citizens’ rights to bring ballot measures in their entirety. 

The court ruled that the state’s constitution required 20% of the signatures from each of the state’s five congressional districts in order to qualify a ballot measure. The problem is, Mississippi hasn’t had five congressional districts for decades. They only have four. 

“This meant, not only that Mississippi voters don’t have medical marijuana available to them right now. It also shut down a ballot measure process that we had launched with partners in Mississippi to expand Medicaid which would have brought health care to nearly 300,000 Mississippians. All of that work is on hold while we fight to have the process restored,” said Kelly Hall.  

Kelly describes attacks on the ballot measure process as another attack on democracy, as a form of voter suppression. Similar to Mississippi, legislators in Arkansas and South Dakota have recently referred ballot initiatives to change their constitutions, defining a “winning” ballot measure threshold of 60% of the vote instead of 50%. Other legislatures are making it more difficult to collect signatures. The Fairness Project plans to fight these efforts, in addition to continuing work at the local level. 

“It’s the same folks who are bringing forward attacks on voting generally, that are also bringing forward attacks on ballot measures. There’s something that gets kind of personal with legislatures, because they believe that they should be the only ones able to enact laws in their states. Yet every time we pass a ballot measure, it is because the legislature refuses to act and we’re always sort of going around the powers that be. So this is part and parcel of a broader, insidious attempt to curtail democratic participation,” said Kelly Hall. 

The Fairness Project has won 20 of the 21 ballot measure campaigns it’s been involved in since 2016. In the 2022 cycle, they are working ballot measures around the country to expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, provide paid leave, end the predatory practices of payday lenders, and defend democratic institutions.

If you would like to interview Kelly Hall, Executive Director of The Fairness Project, please email Alexis Magnan-Callaway at alexis@thefairnessproject.org.

Listen to Kelly Hall’s full interview with Joel Payne HERE

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