Mississippians voted decisively Tuesday to make the “In God We Trust” banner the state’s official flag.
With 76% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the referendum in favor of the new flag design. It had received 69.6% of the votes at that point.
With 92 percent of the precincts in on Wednesday, support for the flag had climbed to 71.6 percent and 726,130 votes.
The flag will replace the 1894 design that featured the Confederate emblem after it was removed from display at Government buildings through a June vote by the Mississippi state legislature and a bill signed by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.
For State Rep. Jeramey Anderson of Moss Point, Tuesday’s vote was the culmination of a decades-long effort.
“I’m definitely excited to see Mississippians found a need to vote for a more progressive and inclusive symbol that unites the state,” Anderson told the Sun Herald over the phone. “One thing I said when the House passed the ball is that my predecessor (Billy Bloomfield) worked on this issue for 21 years. I was just the person to press the button.
“This is not something that just belongs to currently serving House and Senate members. It’s been a long-term process that had so many moving parts.”
It was up to a nine-person commission to design a new flag and the “New Magnolia” version won out by an 8-1 vote over the “Great River Flag”
The new flag features a white magnolia on a blue background with red bars on both ends. The flower is encircled by 20 white stars that signify Mississippi’s status as the nation’s 20th state, a single gold star at the top that represents the state’s Native American people and the motto “In God We Trust” at the bottom.
The Legislature’s bill says that the design must have the words, “In God We Trust,” and could not feature the Confederate emblem.
There was scant polling in the lead up to Tuesday’s vote, but a survey last month by Civiqs found that 61% supported the official adoption of the flag while 31% opposed the new design.
Even with the strong support for the flag on Tuesday, there is a movement to give the old flag an opportunity to be voted on by Mississippians.
A group called Let Mississippi Vote is putting together an initiative to put the retired flag and three other designs on a statewide ballot.
Coast pastor and president of the Harrison County Republican Club Dan Carr is leading the effort.
“We never thought, I never thought the flag was going to fail,” Carr said. “When you put a single flag on the ballot of course with yes or no a lot of people are going to vote yes.
Carr seemed confident that his group will get the referendum on the ballot.
“Our next step is we’re going to keep working, we’re going to get the referendum already approved by the attorney general’s office. We’re waiting on the number from the secretary of state’s office and we’ll get the 107,000 signatures that we need to put the flag back on the ballot for the people of Mississippi to decide on the flag issue.”
Anderson believes the movement to put the old flag back before voters is ill conceived.
“My take to those folks trying to put the old flag on the ballot is, shame on you,” Anderson said. “That will take Mississippi in the opposite direction.”
(c) 2020 The Sun Herald
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.