2022 Regular Session
To: Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency; Elections
By: Senator(s) Blount
AN ACT TO PROVIDE PROCEDURES BY WHICH QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF THIS STATE MAY INITIATE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO BE APPROVED BY THE ELECTORATE AT THE NEXT STATEWIDE GENERAL ELECTION; TO PROVIDE FOR THE MANNER AND TIME FOR FILING INITIATIVE PETITIONS WITH THE SECRETARY OF STATE; TO PRESCRIBE THE DUTIES AND POWERS OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE WITH REGARD TO RECEIVING, FILING AND CERTIFYING INITIATIVE MEASURES AND PETITIONS; TO PRESCRIBE THE FORM OF INITIATIVE PETITIONS AND THE FORMS OF SUCH MEASURES FOR THE BALLOTS; TO AUTHORIZE APPEALS FROM ADVERSE FINDINGS OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE REGARDING INITIATIVE MEASURES AND PETITIONS; TO PROVIDE CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR CERTAIN CONDUCT PRESCRIBED AS UNLAWFUL UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) For purposes of this chapter, the following term shall have the meaning ascribed herein:
"Measure" means an amendment to the General Laws of Mississippi to be codified in the Mississippi Code of 1972 proposed by a petition of qualified electors.
(2) If any qualified elector of the state desires to initiate a proposed amendment to the general laws of this state, the qualified elector shall first file with the Secretary of State a typewritten copy of the proposed initiative measure, accompanied by an affidavit that the sponsor is a qualified elector of this state.
(3) The sponsor of an initiative shall identify in the text of the initiative the amount and source of revenue required to implement the initiative. If the initiative requires a reduction in any source of government revenue, or a reallocation of funding from currently funded programs, the sponsor shall identify in the text of the initiative the program or programs whose funding must be reduced or eliminated to implement the initiative.
SECTION 2. A petition is valid for a period of twelve (12) months.
SECTION 3. Upon receipt of any proposed initiative measure, the Secretary of State shall submit a copy of the proposed measure to the Attorney General and give notice to the person filing the proposed measure of such transmittal. Upon receipt of the measure, the Attorney General may confer with the person filing the proposed measure and shall within ten (10) working days from receipt thereof review the proposal for matters of form and style, and such matters of substantive import as may be agreeable to the person filing the proposed measure, and shall recommend such revision or alteration of the measure as may be deemed necessary and appropriate. The recommendations of the Attorney General shall be advisory only, and the person filing the proposed measure may accept or reject them in whole or in part. The Attorney General shall issue a certificate of review certifying that he has reviewed the measure for form and style and that the recommendations thereon, if any, have been communicated to the person filing the proposed measure, and such certificate shall issue whether or not the person filing the proposed measure accepts such recommendations. Within fifteen (15) working days after notification of submittal of the proposed initiative measure to the Attorney General, the person filing the proposed measure, if he desires to proceed with his sponsorship, shall file the measure together with the certificate of review with the Secretary of State for assignment of a serial number and the Secretary of State shall thereupon submit to the Attorney General a certified copy of the measure filed. Upon submitting the proposal to the Secretary of State for assignment of a serial number the Secretary of State shall refuse to make such assignment unless the proposal is accompanied by a certificate of review.
SECTION 4. The Secretary of State shall give a serial number to each initiative measure, and forthwith transmit one (1) copy of the measure proposed bearing its serial number to the Attorney General. Thereafter, a measure shall be known and designated on all petitions, ballots and proceedings as "Initiative Measure No. ____."
SECTION 5. When an amendment to the Mississippi Code of 1972 is proposed to the qualified electors of the state under this chapter, the Secretary of State, with the approval of the Attorney General, may make a nonsubstantive clerical or technical correction in the section number reference or designation of the proposed amendment contained in an initiative measure, as may be appropriate or necessary in order to prevent the use of an existing section number or the possibility of the initiative being declared invalid only because of an error in the section number designation. Such a correction may be made at any time after the Attorney General's certificate of review with regard to the initiative measure has been issued, and before the ballot for the initiative measure is printed. The provisions of this section do not authorize the Secretary of State to make any change other than a nonsubstantive correction in the section number reference or designation of the proposed amendment contained in the initiative measure.
SECTION 6. Within seven (7) calendar days after the receipt of an initiative measure, the Attorney General shall formulate and transmit to the Secretary of State a concise statement posed as a question and not to exceed twenty (20) words, bearing the serial number of the measure and a summary of the measure, not to exceed seventy-five (75) words, to follow the statement. The statement shall give a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the measure. Neither the statement nor the summary may intentionally be an argument, nor likely to create prejudice, either for or against the measure. Such concise statement shall constitute the ballot title. The ballot title formulated by the Attorney General shall be the ballot title of the measure unless changed on appeal. When practicable, the question posed by the ballot title shall be written in such a way that an affirmative answer to such question and an affirmative vote on the measure would result in a change in then current law, and a negative answer to the question and a negative vote on the measure would result in no change to then current law.
SECTION 7. Upon the filing of the ballot title and summary for an initiative measure in his office, the Secretary of State shall forthwith notify by certified mail return receipt requested, the person proposing the measure and any other individuals who have made written request for such notification of the exact language of the ballot title. The Secretary of State shall publish the title and summary for an initiative measure within ten (10) days after filing such title and summary in a newspaper or newspapers of general circulation throughout the State of Mississippi.
SECTION 8. If any person is dissatisfied with the ballot title or summary formulated by the Attorney General, he or she may, within five (5) days from the publications of the ballot title and summary by the Office of the Secretary of State, appeal to the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi, by petition setting forth the measure, the title or summary formulated by the Attorney General, and his or her objections to the ballot title or summary and requesting amendment of the title or summary by the court.
A copy of the petition on appeal together with a notice that an appeal has been taken shall be served upon the Secretary of State, upon the Attorney General and upon the person proposing the measure if the appeal is initiated by someone other than that person. Upon the filing of the petition on appeal or at the time to which the hearing may be adjourned by consent of the appellant, the court shall accord first priority to examining the proposed measure, the title or summary prepared by the Attorney General and the objections to that title or summary. The court may hear arguments, and, within ten (10) days, shall render its decision and file with the Secretary of State a certified copy of such ballot title or summary as it determines will meet the requirements of Section 6 of this act. The decision of the court shall be final.
SECTION 9. When the ballot title and summary are finally established, the Secretary of State shall file the instrument establishing it with the proposed measure and transmit a copy thereof by certified mail return receipt requested, to the person proposing the measure and to any other individuals who have made written request for such notification. Thereafter such ballot title shall be the title of the measure in all petitions, ballots and other proceedings in relation thereto. The summary shall appear on all petitions directly following the ballot title.
SECTION 10. (1) The person proposing an initiative measure shall print blank petitions upon single sheets of paper of good writing quality not less than eight and one-half (8-1/2) inches in width and not less than fourteen (14) inches in length. Each sheet shall have a full, true and correct copy of the proposed measure referred to therein printed on the reverse side of the petition or attached thereto.
(2) Only a person who is a qualified elector of this state may circulate a petition or obtain signatures on a petition.
SECTION 11. The Secretary of State shall design the form each sheet of which shall contain the following:
EVERY PERSON WHO SIGNS THIS PETITION WITH ANY OTHER THAN HIS OR HER TRUE NAME, KNOWINGLY SIGNS MORE THAN ONE (1) OF THESE PETITIONS RELATING TO THE SAME INITIATIVE MEASURE, SIGNS THIS PETITION WHEN HE OR SHE IS NOT A QUALIFIED ELECTOR OR MAKES ANY FALSE STATEMENT ON THIS PETITION MAY BE PUNISHED BY FINE, IMPRISONMENT, OR BOTH.
PETITION FOR INITIATIVE MEASURE
To the Honorable ___________________, Secretary of State of the State of Mississippi:
We, the undersigned citizens and qualified electors of the State of Mississippi, respectfully direct that this petition and the proposed measure known as Initiative Measure No. ____, entitled (here insert the established ballot title of the measure), a full, true and correct copy of which is printed or attached on the reverse side of this petition, be submitted to the electors during the next statewide election; and each of us for himself or herself says: I have personally signed this petition, I am a qualified elector of the State of Mississippi in the city (or town), county and congressional district written after my name, my residence address is correctly stated and I have knowingly signed this petition only once."
Each sheet shall also provide adequate space for the following information: Petitioner's signature; print name for positive identification; residence address, street and number, if any; city or town; county; precinct; and congressional district.
SECTION 12. The Secretary of State shall certify the signatures of qualified electors of that county and shall state the total number of qualified electors signing the petition. The Secretary of State may not receive any fee, salary or compensation from any private person or private legal entity for the clerk's duties in certifying an initiative petition. The person proposing any initiative measure must secure upon the petition a number of signatures of qualified electors equal to or exceeding at least twelve percent (12%) of the votes for all candidates for Governor in the last gubernatorial election. The Secretary of State shall collect a fee of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) from the person filing the petition to pay part of the administrative and publication costs.
SECTION 13. The Secretary of State shall refuse to file any initiative petition being submitted upon any of the following grounds:
(a) That the petition is not in the form required by Section 11 of this act;
(b) That the petition clearly bears insufficient signatures;
(c) That one or more signatures appearing on the petition were obtained in violation of Section 10, Section 26(2) or Section 26(3) of this act;
(d) That the petition is not accompanied by the filing fee provided for in Section 12 of this act.
In case of such refusal, the Secretary of State shall endorse on the petition the word "submitted" and the date, and retain the petition pending appeal.
If none of the grounds for refusal exists, the Secretary of State shall accept and file the petition.
SECTION 14. If the Secretary of State refuses to file an initiative petition when submitted to him for filing, the person submitting it for filing, within ten (10) days after his refusal, may apply to the Supreme Court for an order requiring the Secretary of State to bring the petition before the court and for a writ of mandamus to compel him to file it. The application shall be considered an emergency matter of public concern and shall be heard and determined with all convenient speed. If the Supreme Court decides that the petition is legal in form, apparently contains the requisite number of signatures of qualified electors, was filed within the time prescribed in the Constitution and was accompanied with the proper filing fee, it shall issue its mandate directing the Secretary of State to file the petition in his office as of the date of submission.
SECTION 15. If no appeal is taken from the refusal of the Secretary of State to file a petition within the time prescribed, or if an appeal is taken and the Secretary of State is not required to file the petition by the mandate of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of State shall destroy it.
SECTION 16. Each measure submitted to the people for approval or rejection shall be so printed on the ballot, under the proper heading, that a voter can, by making one (1) choice, express his approval or rejection of such measure. Substantially the following form shall be a compliance with this section:
INITIATIVE MEASURE NO. ______
(Here insert the ballot title of the measure.)
YES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ( )
NO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ( )
SECTION 17. No more than five (5) initiative proposals shall be submitted to the voters on a single ballot, and the first five (5) initiative proposals submitted to the Secretary of State with sufficient petitions shall be the proposals which are submitted to the voters.
SECTION 18. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, an initiative shall require a majority vote of the people in favor of the initiative to be effective.
(2) If the subject matter of the initiative would be considered a revenue bill under the Joint Rules of the Legislature, then the initiative shall require a three-fifths (3/5) vote of the people in favor of the initiative to be effective.
(3) An initiative approved by the electors shall take effect thirty (30) days from the date of the official declaration of the vote by the Secretary of State, unless the measure provides otherwise.
SECTION 19. (1) If any amendment measure proposed by initiative petition under this act is rejected by the qualified electors voting thereon, no initiative petition proposing the same, or substantially the same, amendment shall be submitted to the electors for at least two (2) years after the date of the election on such amendment without a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the Legislature and approved by the Governor.
(2) No initiative approved by the electors may be amended by the Legislature for two (2) years after the date of the election on such amendment.
SECTION 20. (1) A pamphlet containing a copy of all initiative measures and legislative alternatives, including the ballot title and ballot summary, arguments or explanations for and against each measure and alternative and the fiscal analysis prepared by the Chief Legislative Budget Officer shall be compiled by the Secretary of State. The sponsor may prepare the argument or explanation on the measure. If the sponsor does not prepare the argument or explanation, then the Secretary of State shall do so. Each argument or explanation shall not exceed three hundred (300) words. The Secretary of State shall publish the ballot title, ballot summary, full text of each measure and arguments or explanations for and against each measure and alternative once a week for three (3) consecutive weeks immediately preceding the election in at least one (1) newspaper of general circulation in each county of the state. The costs of such printing and publication shall be borne by the Secretary of State from funds appropriated by the Legislature.
(2) The Secretary of State shall conduct at least one (1) public hearing in each congressional district on each measure to be placed on the ballot and shall give public notice thereof at least thirty (30) days before a hearing.
SECTION 21. For the purposes of Sections 21 through 27 of this act, the following terms shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section:
(a) "Contribution" means any gift, subscription, loan, advance, money or anything of value made by a person or political committee for the purpose of influencing the passage or defeat of a measure on the ballot, for the purpose of obtaining signatures for the proposed ballot measures and attempting to place the proposed measure on the ballot, and for the purpose of opposing efforts to place a proposed measure on the ballot; but does not include noncompensated, nonreimbursed volunteer personal services.
(b) "Person" means any individual, family, firm, corporation, partnership, association or other legal entity.
(c) "Political committee" means any person, other than an individual, who receives contributions or makes expenditures for the purpose of influencing the passage or defeat of a measure on the ballot.
(d) "Expenditure" means any purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, gift of money or anything of value, made by any person or political committee for the purpose of influencing any balloted measure, for the purpose of obtaining signatures for a proposed ballot measure and attempting to place the proposed measure on the ballot, and for the purpose of opposing efforts to place a proposed measure on the ballot.
SECTION 22. (1) Each political committee shall file with the Secretary of State a statement of organization no later than ten (10) days after receipt of contributions aggregating in excess of Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00), or no later than ten (10) days after having made expenditures aggregating in excess of Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00).
(2) The statement of organization of a political committee must include:
(a) The name and address of the committee and all officers;
(b) Designation of a director of the committee and a custodian of books and accounts of the committee, who shall be designated treasurer; and
(c) A brief statement identifying the measure that the committee seeks to pass or defeat.
Any change in information previously submitted in a statement of organization shall be reported and filed within ten (10) days.
SECTION 23. (1) A political committee that either receives contributions or makes expenditures in excess of Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) shall file financial reports with the Secretary of State.
(2) An individual person who on his or her own behalf expends in excess of Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) for the purpose of influencing the passage or defeat of a measure shall file financial reports with the Secretary of State.
(3) The financial reports required in this section shall be filed monthly, not later than the tenth day of the month following the month being reported, after a political committee or an individual exceeds the contribution or expenditure limits. Financial reports must continue to be filed until all contributions and expenditures cease. In all cases a financial report shall be filed thirty (30) days following the election on a measure.
(4) Any person, who violates the provisions of this section, shall be subject to a fine as provided in Section 23-15-813.
SECTION 24. A financial report of a political committee, or an individual person, as required by Section 23 of this act, shall contain the following information:
(a) The name, address and telephone number of the committee or individual person filing the statement.
(b) For a political committee:
(i) The total amount of contributions received during the period covered by the financial report;
(ii) The total amount of expenditures made during the period covered by the financial report;
(iii) The cumulative amount of those totals for each measure;
(iv) The balance of cash and cash equivalents on hand at the beginning and the end of the period covered by the financial report;
(v) The total amount of contributions received during the period covered by the financial report from persons who contributed Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) or less, and the cumulative amount of that total for each measure;
(vi) The total amount of contributions received during the period covered by the financial report from persons who contributed Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) or more, and the cumulative amount of that total for each measure; and
(vii) The name and street address of each person from whom a contribution(s) exceeding Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) was received during the period covered by the financial report, together with the amount contributed, the date of receipt, and the cumulative amount contributed by that person for each measure.
(c) For an individual person:
(i) The total amount of expenditures made during the period covered by the financial report;
(ii) The cumulative amount of that total for each measure; and
(iii) The name and street address of each person to whom expenditures totaling Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) or more were made, together with the amount of each separate expenditure to each person during the period covered by the financial report and the purpose of the expenditure.
(iv) The total amount of contributions received during the period covered by the financial report, the cumulative amount of that total for each measure, and the name and street address of each person who contributed more than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) and the amount contributed.
SECTION 25. It is unlawful for any person to distribute or post material in support of or in opposition to a measure within one hundred fifty (150) feet of any entrance to a polling place where the election is held.
SECTION 26. (1) It is unlawful for a person to give or offer any consideration to an elector to induce the elector to vote for or against a measure.
(2) It is unlawful for a person to give or offer any consideration to an elector to induce the elector to sign or not sign a petition for a measure.
(3) It is unlawful for any person who pays or compensates another person for circulating a petition or for obtaining signatures on a petition to base the pay or compensation on the number of petitions circulated or the number of signatures obtained.
(4) It is unlawful for any person to solicit signatures on any petition under this chapter within one hundred fifty (150) feet of any polling place on any election day.
(5) It is unlawful for any person who circulates or causes to be circulated an initiative petition to obtain or attempt to obtain a person's signature (a) by intentionally misleading such person as to the substance or effect of the petition, or (b) by intentionally causing such person to be misled as to the substance or effect of the petition.
SECTION 27. It is unlawful for a person to interfere with or influence the vote of an elector on a measure by means of violence, threats, intimidation, enforcing the payment of a debt, bringing a suit or criminal prosecution, any threat or action affecting a person's conditions of employment or other corrupt means.
SECTION 28. Any person who alleges that his or her signature on an initiative petition was obtained as the result of fraud or coercion, or that the person was intentionally misled as to the substance or effect of the petition, may have his or her signature removed from the initiative petition upon filing an affidavit to such effect with the Secretary of State anytime before the Secretary of State has accepted and filed the petition under Section 13 of this act.
SECTION 29. Any violation of Sections 22 through 27 of this act is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one (1) year, or by a fine not to exceed One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.
SECTION 30. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after the date Senate Concurrent Resolution No. ___, 2022 Regular Session, proposing an amendment to Section 33 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, is approved by the voters.