Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi Legislature’


No Suffrage Restoration in 2016

Monday, April 25th, 2016

It’s time for my annual look at legislative restoration of suffrage rights. In 2004, 37 legislators authored 48 bills to restore voting rights to individuals and 35 of those made it through the legislative process to approval. This year only 2 legislators authored 2 bills and neither made it through the process.

Since 2004, 94 Mississippians have had their suffrage rights restored by the legislature. During Governor Phil Bryant’s administration (2012 till now), suffrage restoration has been fully an act of the legislature; passing without his signature (although while Bryant served as Lieutenant Governor, 21 suffrage rights measures passed.)

(Past posts on this issue from 2012, 2013 and 2015.)

Here is a chart tracking the number of bills filed, the number of legislators introducing the bills and the number of measures which made it through final approval.


Legislature passes 4 suffrage bills

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Today the Senate passed four restoration of suffrage bills already passed by the House.

Under the federal system, a legislation must be signed by the President to become law. Not signing it is called the pocket veto. Under Mississippi’s system, it is just the opposite: legislation becomes law unless the governor vetoes it. If he does nothing, it becomes law without him.

That is what has happened with the previous suffrage bills passed under Governor Phil Bryant: 1 in 2013 and 3 in 2014. Essentially, that makes these particular restoration of suffrage rights bills entirely an act of the legislature with the executive giving neither approval nor disapproval. (While Bryant served as Lt. Gov., 21 suffrage rights measures passed.)

I’ve looked at suffrage bills over the years, particularly interested in whether the uproar over former Governor Haley Barbour’s pardons impacted the introduction or approval of these measures (post from 2012 & post from 2013). Over the past 11 years, 90 Mississippians have had their suffrage rights restored by the legislature.

Here is a chart tracking the number of bills filed, the number of legislators making these requests and the number of bills approved from the 2004 session through the 2014 session. I haven’t added the 5 bills submitted, 4 legislators making requests and 4 bills pending approval from this year.


Legislative Restoration of Rights in Post-Barbour Pardons Session

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Last year I wondered if there was any impact of the controversy resulting from Governor Haley Barbour’s pardons on legislative action to return suffrage to those convicted of a felony crime: Did Barbour pardons impact legislative suffrage bills?

Looking back over the legislative sessions during the Barbour Administration I noted a decline in such legislation but no substantial impact in 2012 following the pardons.  The year following his pardons had nearly the same number of suffrage restoration bills and legislators sponsoring them as the year before his pardons, except there were no successfully passed and approved suffrage bills post-pardons and six pre-pardons (but there were also no successfully passed and approved suffrage bills in 2009, two years before his pardons).

I won’t restate the entire post from last year, you can go back and look at it, but here is are the updated numbers and chart with 2013’s legislative session included:

Year - Bills - Legislators - Approved
2004 - 48 - 37 - 35
2005 - 24 - 20 - 13
2006 - 16 - 12 - 07
2007 - 28 - 20 - 10
2008 - 27 - 21 - 08
2009 - 20 - 17 - 00
2010 - 08 - 07 - 07
2011 - 10 - 09 - 06
2012 - 10 - 08 - 00
2013 - 08 - 07 - 01

Here are details on the bills introduced in 2013:

HB1601 by Lester Carpenter (R) - James Lee Dunn (Alcorn County) Receiving Stolen Property - Died in Committee

HB1602 by Bill Pigott (R) - Joseph Herring (Lamar County) Embezzlement - Died in Committee

HB1603 by Nolan Mettetal (R) - Randall Lamar Bolton (Panola County) Grand Larceny - Died in Committee

HB1608 by Bill Pigott (R) - Ashley Harvey (Walthall County) Receiving Stolen Property - Died in Committee

HB1609 by Randall Patterson (D) - Michael Timothy Wood, Sr. (Jackson County) Grand Larceny - Died in Committee

HB1703 by Clara Burnett (D) - Jessie Mae Dotson (Tunica County) Uttering Forgery - Passed and Approved without Governor’s Signature* (House Vote - Senate Vote)

HB1704 by Preston Sullivan (D) - Charles L. Bone (Chickasaw County) Theft - Died in Committee

HB1724 by Steve Holland (D) - Terry Lee Bates (Lee County) Theft - Died in Committee

I’m not critical of these legislators.  While I don’t know the circumstances of each case, I believe in redemption and believe the opportunity for mercy and grace exists in the public sector through the due process of law in all three branches of our government including legislative restoration of rights and executive pardons. This information is a somewhat dispassionate look at the facts.

I would note that three of the loudest Democratic critics of Governor Barbour’s pardons - Bobby Moak, David Baria, Earle Banks - all voted for restoration of rights in the one bill which was approved this past session. To be fair, “uttering forgery” and “murder” are not the same, but the criticisms against Barbour’s pardons were not directed only at the worst crimes. Barbour was criticized in general for his actions which included pardons for “uttering forgery” - the crime behind the restoration of rights bill that Moak, Baria and Banks voted for last session.

*You may remember from civics class that the when a bill is passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the President of the United States may sign it, veto it, or do nothing and the act dies (pocket veto). In Mississippi, the final option is reversed. A governor may sign it, veto it, or do nothing and the act passes. That is what happened in this case. It became approved without Governor Phil Bryant’s signature.


Did Barbour pardons impact legislative suffrage bills?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Following the uproar over Governor Haley Barbour’s pardons, I decided to take a look at the number of bills passed by the legislature this year returning suffrage rights to convicted felons to see if there was a significant drop from recent years. No suffrage restoration bills passed this year; but none passed in 2009 either. Only 10 bills were introduced this year, but only 8 bills were introduced in 2010. And only 8 legislators introduced bills this year, but only 7 introduced bills in 2010. In fact, we’ve seen a steady decline in Mississippi of suffrage restoration activity in the legislature since 37 legislators introduced 48 bills with 35 passing and receiving gubernatorial approval back in 2004.

Pardons by a governor and restoration of suffrage rights through the legislature with gubernatorial approval are very different things. Most of the pardons granted by Barbour went to people who had already served their time and were conducting themselves as ‘law-abiding and honorable citizens in a good and lawful manner’ (to use a phrase the legislature uses in their suffrage restoration bills). A pardon wipes away the conviction; the restoration of suffrage does only restores the right to vote to a convicted felon who has otherwise fulfilled the punishment of his sentence.

Still, some might argue restoring the right to vote to a convicted felon is soft on crime. After the public outcry on the pardons, legislators who view themselves as tough on crime might not wish to pursue the restoration of rights. Whether that was the case this year is hard to say as the numbers follow the recent trend lines.

Legislative Suffrage Data in Mississippi 2004-2012

Legislative Suffrage Data in Mississippi 2004-2012

Year - Bills - Legislators - Approved
2004 - 48 - 37 - 35
2005 - 24 - 20 - 13
2006 - 16 - 12 - 07
2007 - 28 - 20 - 10
2008 - 27 - 21 - 08
2009 - 20 - 17 - 00
2010 - 08 - 07 - 07
2011 - 10 - 09 - 06
2012 - 10 - 08 - 00


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