Voting Rights Advocates Celebrate Legislative Change in Mississippi Following Voter Challenge Lawsuit

July 1, 2024

Tara Y. Wren

JACKSON, Miss. — Voting rights advocates celebrate a significant victory as the Mississippi Legislature rolled back an unlawful restriction placed on voters.

This legislative change, which takes effect July 1, follows a successful lawsuit led by Disability Rights Mississippi, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi, and three individual Mississippi voters.

In August 2023, a preliminary injunction was secured to block S.B. 2358, a 2023 state law severely restricting Mississippi voters’ right to receive assistance with delivering or returning their ballot.

As a direct result of this injunction, Mississippi enacted S.B. 2425 in 2024 to correct the flaws identified by the federal district court.

Under the amended law, voters who need assistance due to disability, blindness, or inability to read or write can choose a person to help them with delivering or returning their absentee mail-in ballot. There are five specific exceptions: Voters cannot receive assistance from their employer, union representative, a candidate on the ballot, a candidate’s family member, or a poll watcher.

Voters without a disability or inability to read or write may receive assistance from a family member (anyone related by blood, marriage, adoption, or legal guardianship), household member (anyone who resides at the same residence), or caregiver (anyone who provides medical, health care assistance, or other assistance to the voter at a residence, institution, or facility).

The lawsuit leading to this change was filed on behalf of Disability Rights Mississippi and the League of Women Voters of Mississippi by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mississippi Center for Justice, American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU of Mississippi.

Quotes from key advocates:

Mamie Cunningham, grassroots organizer/community activist, director of Patterson Community Organization, and a Black Voters Matter partner in Northeast Mississippi: “Many people with disabilities in rural communities would not vote if they did not have assistance. In Mississippi, voting by absentee ballot is an overwhelming process even for people without disabilities. The process is complicated and calls for several actions before it’s accepted by the circuit clerk to be processed.”

Ming Cheung, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project: “Mississippi never should have restricted voters from receiving the assistance they need, and it took a federal injunction for the state to change course. The Mississippi Legislature should enact measures to expand voter access in the state, which remains one of the most difficult places to vote in the country.”

Joshua Tom, legal director at the ACLU of Mississippi: “Voting is one of our fundamental rights as Americans. Instead of ensuring every eligible person can cast a ballot, Mississippi made it harder for certain people with disabilities to vote. We sued and won. We will continue to protect Mississippians’ voting rights.”

Peg Ciraldo, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Mississippi: “Voting is basic and necessary to a democracy. The League of Women Voters of Mississippi is proud to be part of this legal and legislative victory. The League will continue our mission to empower voters and defend democracy by protecting equal access to the ballot for all.”

Caren Short, director of legal and research at the League of Women Voters of the US: “Across the country, anti-voter state legislatures are attempting to make it harder for voters with disabilities to vote by limiting who can assist with absentee ballots. The League has fought to ensure Mississippi voters who require assistance can exercise their right to receive the assistance they need. With this new legislation, League members in Mississippi will not be prosecuted for carrying out our mission to empower voters.”

Ahmed Soussi, senior staff attorney with the SPLC’s Voting Rights Practice Group: “This victory is because of our plaintiffs’ amazing work to ensure voters with disabilities can enforce their full voting rights. We will continue to protect their rights and ensure Mississippi complies with the Voting Rights Act.”

Rob McDuff, director of the Impact Litigation Initiative at the Mississippi Center for Justice: “In Mississippi, we need to promote opportunities to vote, not limit them. Our lawsuit promotes those opportunities, and we celebrate the outcome.”

Greta Kemp Martin, litigation director of Disability Rights Mississippi: “This legislative change is a monumental step forward for voting rights in Mississippi, ensuring that every citizen’s voice is heard and respected. This victory is a testament to the power of advocacy and the relentless pursuit of voting equality for all.”