Justices took the arguments under advisement and will issue an opinion soon.
The Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday regarding the validity of Initiative 65, the medical marijuana initiative. The initiative was passed on the 2020 ballot by over 70 percent of Mississippi’s residents.
Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler of Madison filed a petition challenging the process by which the initiative was placed before voters on the ballot. It named Secretary of State Michael Watson in his official capacity.
In court on Wednesday, Attorney Kaytie Pickett argued that the certification of the initiative was not done correctly by then-Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.
You can watch the proceedings below:
The petitioners team argued that one fifth of the vote from each congressional district as laid out currently in Mississippi’s constitution would not be adequate because it would only encompass 80 percent of the voters across the state. That is because Mississippi’s code still recognizes five congressional districts even though there are only four members of Congress.
She specifically drew attention to section 273 (3) of the State Constitution. One fact that she raised was the definition of a qualified elector. They said those that signed the petition for the ballot initiative could not have honestly signed for the congressional district that they represent. This is a requirement as a qualified elector outlined in the constitution.
That provisions in the Mississippi Constitution reads, in part:
“…An initiative to amend the Constitution may be proposed by a petition signed over a twelve month period by qualified electors equal in number to at least twelve percent (12%) of the votes for all candidates for Governor in the last gubernatorial election. The signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot…”
Ultimately, Hawkins-Butler’s team argued that the language is unambiguous and plain, and that the Secretary of State’s determination allowing the petition supporting Initiative 65 was unconstitutional.
Justin Matheny with the Attorney General’s office represented the Secretary of State’s office. Their position was that while the text encompasses a five congressional district state, the constitution still outlines a one-fifth vote required from each district for a ballot measure.
He said there is still an interpretive measure left to solve if only looking at Section 273 (3).
No decision was made today by Justices, but Chief Justice Mike Randolph said they will be working hard to deliver one as soon as possible recognizing the immediacy of the question at issue.