Reps. Karriem, Summers respond to the governor’s suffrage vetoes

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By Reps. Kabir Karriem & Zakiya Summers 

Jackson Advocate Guest Writers

Getting legislation that restores individuals’ voting rights to the governor’s desk is no easy feat. It requires research, relationship-building with and lobbying colleagues, testimony during committee meetings, and two-thirds passage in both chambers. Recently, Republican Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi used the stroke of his pen to veto four suffrage bills, two of which we sponsored that had met all of the requirements. His handling of these measures are not only deeply disappointing and disturbing but also raises a serious lack in judgment about his consistency, transparency, and commitment to justice as the head of this state. This move is particularly noteworthy given the governor’s historical reluctance to approve such bills during his tenure, which began in 2020.

In a surprising departure from his usual stance, Governor Reeves chose to sign two measures into law that restored suffrage for two individuals, while also allowing 12 other suffrage restoration bills to become law without his signature. While significant, this series of actions has left suffrage bill sponsors like us and observers alike perplexed and seeking clarification on the governor’s reasoning behind these seemingly inconsistent decisions.

What further complicates the situation is Governor Reeves’ failure to provide any formal explanation for his actions. The Mississippi Constitution explicitly mandates that governors return any vetoed bills to the legislature with their objections. However, in this instance, Governor Reeves did not attach any objections to his four vetoes, violating this constitutional requirement and leaving the public in the dark regarding the rationale behind his choices.

The issue of suffrage restoration in Mississippi is deeply intertwined with the state’s stringent laws that disenfranchise individuals convicted of certain felonies. The list of disenfranchising felonies has expanded over time, leading to the exclusion of many individuals from participating in the democratic process. This flawed system highlights the urgent need for reform and a more equitable suffrage restoration process that upholds the principles of fairness, inclusion, and first-class citizenship. 

Governor Reeves’ recent actions have only added to the confusion and skepticism surrounding suffrage restoration in Mississippi. By vetoing bills without providing explanations and selectively approving others, the governor has raised doubts about his commitment to upholding the rights of all citizens to participate in the democratic process.

As Mississippi lawmakers continue to grapple with suffrage restoration, it is crucial that we prioritize transparency, accountability, and the fundamental rights of all individuals to engage in the electoral system. Legislative efforts, such as HB 1609, which sought to restore voting rights to tens of thousands of people in Mississippi, are essential in advancing a more just and inclusive democracy in the state. 

We call upon Governor Reeves to reconsider his approach to suffrage restoration and adopt a more transparent and consistent decision-making process that aligns with the values of fairness and democracy. Only through a fair and accessible suffrage restoration process can Mississippi ensure that all its residents have a voice in shaping the future of their communities and the state as a whole.

Representative Kabir Karriem represents House District 41 and Representative Zakiya Summers represents House District 68.

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Reps. Karriem, Summers respond to the governor’s suffrage vetoes

By Jackson Advocate News Service
May 28, 2024