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Analysis: Mississippi voters will say yes or no to new flag

“New Magnolia Flag” | The flag commission made some adjustments to the original design, such as widening the gold bars. Designed by Rocky Vaughan, with design support provided by Sue Anna Joe, Kara Giles and Dominique Pugh.

An expert says having a statewide election on a flag design is unusual, and Mississippi is having its second one in less than 20 years.

Posted: Nov 1, 2020 6:28 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — An expert says having a statewide election on a flag design is unusual, and Mississippi is having its second one in less than 20 years.

A single design is on the ballot for a yes-or-no vote. It has a magnolia on a dark blue background with red bars on either end. The state flower is encircled by the phrase “In God We Trust” and stars representing Mississippi as the 20th state. The flag also has a single star made of diamond shapes representing the Native American people who lived on the land before others arrived.

In June, Mississippi legislators surrendered the last state flag that included the Confederate battle emblem that's widely condemned as racist. The change came as protests against racial injustice were happening across the U.S., and Mississippi was under pressure from education, business, religious and sports groups — including, notably, the state Baptist convention and the Southeastern Conference.

Legislators mandated that a new Mississippi flag must include the religious phrase and could not include the rebel symbol. They also created a nine-person commission to design a flag for voters to accept or reject.

“It’s highly unusual for people to vote on the flag that represents them,” Ted Kaye, secretary of the North American Vexillological Association, told The Associated Press in August.

Kaye said some cities have had flag elections, but he knew of only four larger jurisdictions that have had them. In 2001, Mississippi voters rejected change. In 2004, Georgia voters accepted a flag the state had been using for a year — a design that had replaced one featuring the Confederate battle emblem. New Zealand had a two-part referendum in 2015 and 2016, sticking with the national banner that includes the Union Jack. Now, Mississippi is voting again.

“Flags are almost always adopted by legislatures or parliaments or congresses,” said Kaye, who lives in Oregon and wrote “Good Flag, Bad Flag,” a guide that Mississippi commissioners consulted as worked on a banner this year.

Mississippi had used the same flag since 1894, when white supremacists in the Legislature adopted the design amid backlash to the political clout that Black residents gained during Reconstruction.

The flag had long been divisive in a state with the largest percentage of Black residents. Although voters chose to keep the flag in the 2001 election, all of the state’s public universities and many local governments stopped flying it.

Until this summer, a majority of Mississippi legislators were unwilling to consider changing the flag because they considered the issue too volatile. Momentum changed as protests broke out after a Black man was killed in Minneapolis police custody.

If a majority of voters say yes to the magnolia design, the flag will become an official state symbol.

If they say no, the old Confederate-themed flag will not return. Instead, a commission will design another new flag to go on the ballot in 2021. The new design would have the same rules: it must include “In God We Trust,” and it cannot incorporate the Confederate battle emblem.

Large flags hang from poles and smaller flags on sticks stand on rotating display cases at A Complete Flag Source in northeast Jackson, a former car dealership showroom with tall windows and lots of natural light. One corner has a display that includes an American flag and the proposed new Mississippi flag.

Brenda McIntyre, who owns the store with her husband, Jim, said last week that some people have been buying the proposed new state flag. But she said the retired state flag is also selling briskly: “We have customers that get the old flag every day."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17436187
Hinds16524328
Harrison13876199
Rankin11000217
Jackson10652187
Lee8981141
Madison8413168
Jones6552112
Forrest6101121
Lauderdale6034189
Lowndes5463119
Lafayette507393
Lamar496465
Washington4877124
Bolivar4068109
Oktibbeha401681
Panola378380
Pontotoc372155
Monroe3628105
Warren3619101
Union350563
Marshall349569
Neshoba3433152
Pearl River3380104
Leflore3079108
Lincoln300687
Sunflower289272
Hancock285360
Tate276762
Alcorn268854
Pike266580
Itawamba266261
Scott253448
Yazoo250156
Prentiss249552
Tippah245850
Copiah244549
Coahoma243654
Simpson240069
Leake234367
Grenada221171
Marion218473
Covington216972
Adams210170
Wayne206432
Winston205267
George202739
Attala195761
Newton195745
Tishomingo192461
Chickasaw186144
Jasper176038
Holmes169868
Clay162735
Tallahatchie154935
Stone148424
Clarke143562
Calhoun138021
Smith125825
Yalobusha120234
Walthall113437
Greene112129
Noxubee111425
Montgomery110936
Carroll105922
Lawrence104317
Perry103231
Amite99926
Webster94324
Tunica87621
Jefferson Davis87327
Claiborne86825
Benton84023
Humphreys83624
Kemper79120
Quitman7029
Franklin68716
Choctaw62313
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55920
Sharkey44217
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 432536

Reported Deaths: 6379
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63523957
Mobile30967562
Madison27627201
Tuscaloosa21122268
Montgomery19495326
Shelby18941126
Baldwin16798188
Lee12901102
Morgan12447129
Etowah11911178
Calhoun11365205
Marshall10322119
Houston8813156
Limestone823176
Cullman8159106
Elmore8056104
DeKalb7796102
Lauderdale773399
St. Clair7705122
Talladega6347109
Walker5993174
Jackson590341
Colbert543274
Blount541186
Autauga527061
Coffee454160
Dale405482
Franklin371948
Russell345712
Chilton340972
Covington334168
Escambia328344
Dallas310196
Chambers297370
Clarke290536
Tallapoosa2665107
Pike258830
Marion250155
Lawrence249150
Winston231442
Bibb219848
Geneva206946
Marengo205229
Pickens198631
Hale180842
Barbour177836
Fayette174528
Butler171358
Cherokee162530
Henry157523
Monroe150718
Randolph143236
Washington139527
Clay128546
Crenshaw121644
Cleburne119724
Lamar119621
Macon119637
Lowndes112536
Wilcox105822
Bullock101428
Perry99118
Conecuh96320
Sumter89726
Greene76723
Coosa62215
Choctaw51624
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