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Grassroots Effort Could Revive Axed Mississippi Flag

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Organizers of a group called Let Mississippi Vote said Monday that they are starting an initiative to put the retired Mississippi flag and three other flag designs up for a statewide vote.

“What the legislators did, in my opinion, was 100 percent wrong,” the group’s leader, Dan Carr, said. “We should give the people of Mississippi the right to vote on this flag.”

Getting any initiative on the ballot requires signatures from more than 100,000 voters, evenly distributed among the five congressional districts Mississippi used 20 years ago.

Petitions for this initiative could hit the streets in a few weeks.

Even if this initiative gets to the ballot, an election could be a year or two away. And Mississippi might have a new flag before then.

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A commission is already working on a flag design that, by legislative mandate, cannot include the Confederate emblem and must have the phrase “In God We Trust.”

Under the law that retired the old flag, the lone design that commissioners recommend will go on the ballot this November.

If voters accept the design, it will become the new state flag. If they reject it, the commission will come up with a new design that will go on a later ballot.

For now, Mississippi is a state without a flag.

Do you think Mississippi should have retired its state flag?

The banner that legislators retired in late June was the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate emblem. Mississippi had used the flag since 1894.

A group held contentious public hearings about the flag in late 2000, and legislators put the issue up for a statewide election. Voters in 2001 chose to keep the old flag.

Mississippi’s public universities and a growing number of cities and counties stopped flying the state flag in recent years.

Carr, a Gulfport pastor and businessman, said Monday that legislators set a precedent by holding a flag election nearly 20 years ago, and he believes they have now silenced people’s voices.

The four choices proposed by the initiative are the 1894 flag, a bicentennial flag featuring the state seal, a “hospitality flag” designed by Jackson artist Laurin Stennis and the new design that will be recommended by the flag commission.

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Lauren Smith, a medical laboratory scientist from Tupelo, will be the initiative sponsor. She said Monday that legislators “snagged away” what she considers the right of the people to vote on a flag.

“We are not going to go quietly whenever we feel like our rights are being encroached upon,” Smith said.

At least three Republican legislators attended a rally outside the state Capitol on Saturday for people who oppose retiring the old flag without a statewide vote.

One of them, Sen. Chris McDaniel, said Monday that people want multiple choices in a flag election.

“An election where there’s only one option really isn’t an election at all,” McDaniel said.

The public submitted nearly 3,000 designs for a new flag. Commissioners on Friday narrowed that to nine designs, and they will choose five finalists on Tuesday.

By early September, they will agree on a single proposal to put on the Nov. 3 ballot.

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