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Voter rights, access to be forefront of Mississippi Democratic convention

The Mississippi Democratic Party will hold its annual convention on Saturday with a full agenda at hand.

The party – which has not won a statewide election since former Attorney General Jim Hood was elected to a fourth term in 2015 – is in the middle of a bit of a transformation process coming off the heels of a tumultuous tenure that ended in litigation with former chair Tyree Irving. Recently implemented chair State Rep. Cheikh Taylor is pleased with the strides the party has made over the last ten months, including the closest gubernatorial race Mississippi Democrats have seen in over two decades.

“The Democratic party was hemorrhaging, and there was an executive decision by committee members to change leadership,” Taylor recounted to his selection last July. “I didn’t seek nomination for it. Someone thought it was necessary to throw me a live hand grenade and I caught it. And I’m glad I did.”

Topping the list of priorities this weekend when Democrats from all 82 counties convene in Jackson will be electing a new executive committee. Then, attention will be turned toward the party’s platform for this cycle. The proposed plan released going into the convention includes expanding Medicaid, further funding for public K-12 schools, giving teachers pay raises, upping the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and implementing initiatives to create more affordable housing amid record inflation.

According to Taylor, one of the biggest issues Democrats need to discuss is how to advance legislation that would restore voting rights on a broader basis post-incarceration.

Mississippi historically has had a piecemeal approach when it comes to disenfranchisement, in which someone who has paid their debt to society must contact a local representative or senator and ask them to introduce a voting restoration bill on their behalf. On average, hundreds of suffrage bills are filed with around eight to 10 being approved. In some sessions, such as 2023, no suffrage bills are approved by lawmakers.

“This is the most convoluted process,” Taylor said. “The process of someone who paid their debt to society should be a programmatic restoration of

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