3Q's: Delbert Hosemann, Mississippi Secretary of State

By NEMS Daily Journal

Three initiatives are slated to be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Those would require a government-issued identification to vote, prohibit the government from taking land for the use of a private entity and define that life begins at conception. The personhood initiative and the land-taking initiative are currently being challenged in court. Secretary of Sate Delbert Hosemann, who oversees the initiative process, responded to questions from the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison.

Q: Two of the three initiatives scheduled for the November ballot are being challenged in court. How are the lawsuits impacting the duties of your office related to informing voters about the initiatives? Can you expound upon those duties?
A: State law is very clear on the requirements for placing an initiative on the ballot. For the three initiatives, all of these have been met. Regardless of the litigation, our agency is proceeding with the statutory requirements.
Currently, we are in the “inform the voter” stage of the initiative process. We will schedule public hearings in each of the old five congressional districts, as required by law. We are also required to publish a pamphlet to inform the voters on the initiative, as well as include essays both for and against each individual initiative. We are finalizing those pamphlets now and will release them to the public as soon as they are completed.

Q: After having only two initiatives on the ballot since the state approved the process in 1992, there are three this year. Why do you think there are so many?
A: I think Mississippians are more aware of the initiative process than in years past. But more so, the initiatives on the general election ballot this year address basic constitutional issues: the integrity of our vote, the definition of when life begins, and the government’s right to seize private property for economic development. These issues resonate with voters, and Mississippians are passionate either for or against these causes. There also appears to be more interest in Constitutional issues, such as redistricting, by the electorate.

Q: Do you believe the initiative process will be used more in future elections?
A: Yes. The process is difficult, requiring over 89,000 signatures in the five congressional districts. But if one or more of these are successful, I anticipate the initiative process will be used more frequently for issues important to voters which the Legislature does not address.