The Mississippi Supreme Court set the schedule Tuesday for briefs in a case filed by the city of Madison and Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler that could overturn the state’s ballot initiative law.
The city’s brief in the lawsuit is due on December 7 and the brief from Secretary of State Michael Watson is due on December 28.
The final reply brief by the city of Madison will be due on January 7.
The lawsuit, which was filed on October 26, is aimed at overturning Initiative 65, which will create a medical marijuana program in the state and was approved by 73 percent of voters in the November 3 election.
The legal argument brought forward by the city of Madison concerns the ballot initiative law, which requires at least 17,237 certified signatures from each of the five old congressional districts — as they existed in 2000 — for a total of 86,185 for a ballot initiative to make it onto the ballot.
The lawsuit claims the law is unconstitutional since there are four congressional districts and the number of signatures submitted from at least one of the four districts exceeds the one-fifth of the total number required.
The petition says that the state Constitution prohibits the secretary of state from considering any signatures exceeding one fifth of the total number of signatures required and state law prohibits the secretary of state from putting an initiative on the ballot that doesn’t meet the standard.
Seven times the Legislature has proposed concurrent resolutions to change the law since 2003 and all of them have failed.
The secretary of state’s office replaced the language of “any congressional district” to “from each of the five congressional districts as they existed in the year 2000” in 2009. The change was endorsed by an opinion from the state attorney general at the time, Jim Hood, but these opinions don’t carry the weight of law.
In a reply submitted by the secretary of state’s office, the attorneys argue that the city of Madison could’ve filed their procedural challenge years ago and certainly when then-Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann filed Initiative 65 in 2019.
The brief also states that if the court rules in favor of the city of Madison’s interpretation of the ballot initiative law, existing constitutional amendments passed through the process besides Initiative 65 such as voter identification and protections against eminent domain could also be challenged and overturned.