The 2020 presidential election is now just a few short weeks away. On Nov. 3, voters will have the opportunity to exercise their civic duty, able to give their opinions on topics ranging from the general election to the state flag.
The first election voters will see on their ballots is for the President of the United States. President Donald Trump will face Democratic challenger Joe Biden as well as a slew of third-party candidates in what has become a referendum on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the publicity and media coverage surrounding the presidential race, voters should not overlook the state and local races on the ballot this November.
Democrat Mike Espy aims to oust Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith from her U.S. Senate seat. Hyde-Smith previously defeated Espy in a 2018 special election to fill the seat of late Senator Thad Cochran. If elected, Espy would become the first black senator from Mississippi since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo is unopposed for his fourth congressional district seat in the House. Palazzo has held this position since 2011, speaking for voters along both Mississippi’s Pine Belt and Gulf Coast. His website touts his service record as a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and an active member of the Mississippi National Guard.
While these elections will send politicians to Washington, D.C., there are some races voters need to decide on that hit a little closer to home. According to Y’all Politics, residents of Mississippi State House District 87 will decide who will fill the vacant seat in Jackson, with a special election with a runoff set for Nov. 24.
Qualified candidates include conservative republican Joseph “Bubba” Tubb, who promised on his Facebook page to “support policies that are pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment and protect our religious freedoms”.
His main opponent, Matthew Conoly, does not specify or focus on his own party affiliations in the same way. However, according to his Facebook page, his campaign centers on conservative policies and language, such as his stances on economic policy and the public education system.
But voters will do more than just decide who gets to make the laws. Ballot Measure 3 on House Bill 1796 asks voters to mark “Yes” or “No” on the new Magnolia Flag design approved by the Mississippi Flag Commission. If “Yes” wins, it will become the state’s new flag. If “No” wins, the process will restart and a different flag must be selected.
Initiative 65 addresses another long-contested issue: the legalization of medical marijuana. Started by a petition, Initiative 65 would establish a statewide medical marijuana program that prescribes to “qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions, as certified by Mississippi licensed physicians,” per the description of a sample ballot. The ballot contains expense and revenue information about the proposed program to help voters make an informed decision.
Another measure, House Concurrent Resolution 47, will amend the state constitution to eliminate an electoral vote requirement for statewide elections, including the office of the governor. According to Emily Wagster Pettus of the Clarion Ledger, candidates currently must receive the most votes from each state House district in addition to the popular vote. This law is widely regarded as a tool of racial suppression, as it has allowed white lawmakers to block black politicians from taking office thanks to gerrymandering.
The final measure on the ballot for residents of Forrest County will give the option to relocate a Confederate monument outside the downtown Hattiesburg courthouse. The Hattiesburg American reported that this referendum holds no real legal binding, but is more of a poll of opinion. The Forrest County Board of Supervisors placed the measure on the ballot in June, and will act accordingly based on the results.
Other races on the ballot include Mike Randolph, an unopposed nominee for State Supreme Court Justice, and elections for five district election commissioners for Forrest County. To view a sample ballot before Nov. 3, please go to www.sos.ms.gov/elections-voting.