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Mississippi’s governor hinted at putting the Confederate-emblem-bearing flag on the 2018 ballot

As Mississippi state legislators look to the 2018 legislative session, one issue looms heavy: the Mississippi state flag.

Over the summer, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant hinted at putting the flag on the 2018 ballot, saying it would be “a good opportunity” to “let the people of Mississippi speak with one voice” on the issue.

“All of us know, when the game is over, you don’t fly the loser’s banner,” said State Representative Alyce Clarke (D-Jackson). “You run around with the one that won, or you make your own. I think all of us know that’s the correct thing to do.”

Controversy over the state’s Confederate-emblem-bearing flag is nothing new, but the debate around the state flag took on new urgency over the summer following the gathering of neo-Nazis and other white supremacists in Charlottesville, which resulted in the death of anti-racism protester Heather Heyer.

That Sunday at the University of Southern Mississippi, hundreds of students and Hattiesburg residents showed up to counter “flagger” protesters who had been camping at the university’s entrance every Sunday in support of the state flag ever since USM took it down in 2015.

Down on the coast, the state flag has been a constant source of tension in Ocean Springs ever since the election of Republican Mayor Shea Dobson over the summer saw the flag raised at City Hall for the first time in decades. Contentious meetings over the flag have resulted in resignations, shouting matches, and the town’s social media accounts flooded with alt-right trolls from out of state.

A Chism Strategies poll in October found that, for the first time, the current state flag earns the support of less than a majority of the state’s voters. While 49 percent support keeping the current flag, 41 percent favor changing it, with 10 percent undecided.

That’s a 16-point swing from the year 2001, when Mississippi last voted on the state flag. In that referendum, 64 percent of Mississippians voted to keep the current flag, while only 36 percent voted to change it.

The state legislative session begins January 2.

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