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Active initiative backers seek rehearing in Initiative 65 case

Mississippi Supreme Court

Last week, Secretary of State Michael Watson announced that his office would not be filing a motion for a rehearing in the Initiative 65 case, but supporters of two other active initiatives are now attempting to take matters into their own hands to reinstate both the citizen-led initiative process and the medical marijuana program adopted by voters in November. 

MEVI 78, the group pushing an early voting initiative, and Dr. David Allen, whose initiative would legalize recreational marijuana in Mississippi, have filed a ‘motion to intervene’ in the case that has sent shockwaves through the state since the original ruling was handed down on May 14th

“Only a party to the action can request a rehearing and we are not a party. Therefore, we filed a Motion to Intervene requesting leave to intervene for purposes of filing a Motion for a Rehearing,” Kelly Jacobs, Co-Chair of MEVI78, said. “Our goal is to have a rehearing. New information/arguments can then be presented to the Supreme Court. In light of the errors articulated for the first time in our motion for a rehearing, we encourage Secretary of State, Michael Watson, to support our two motions and file a motion in support. We want our Constitution to remain intact and the certified election results of initiative 65 to be enforced.”

In the filling documents, the groups argue that the Supreme Court is “legislating from the bench” after its ruling effectively negated the initiative process that exists in the state constitution. 

“A constitution cannot be changed by a court ruling, nor may it be changed by any law. A constitution can only be changed by its own constitutionally mandated amendment process. In its May 14, 2021 ruling, this Court violated this basic foundational principle of constitutional law and voided a key section of the Constitution of the State of Mississippi.”

The section in question, 273(3), currently dictates that an equal number of signatures for any initiative must come from the state’s five congressional districts as they existed in 2000 prior to the loss of the fifth seat. The legislature has failed to update this language, leading the Supreme Court to state in their opinion that the process “cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress.”

Initiative 65 was adopted with 74% of the vote, and Jacobs explained their position that the court cannot “issue a ruling that is retroactive to before an election, thereby invalidating votes by electors that have already been certified.”

She went on to state her belief that the groups have standing to file this motion because both are set to begin collecting signatures for their respective measures. Without any action from the legislature or the court, Watson recently noted that it’s “doubtful” that current initiatives will make it to the ballot box in the near future. 

If the Court grants the motion for an intervention, the groups could then file a motion for a rehearing. 

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