WASHINGTON, D.C. — On April 22, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) vetoed Senate Bill 2536, a law that would have made it easier for individuals with felony convictions to regain their voting rights after completing their sentences. Mississippi remains one of the most restrictive states and does not automatically restore voting rights to individuals convicted of specific crimes. The law originated from an 1890 constitutional convention that had the specific goal of disenfranchising Black voters; today, that list includes 23 crimes that range from murder to forgery and shoplifting. Instead, the only way to regain voting rights with a disqualifying felony in Mississippi is through a gubernatorial pardon or legislation that passes both chambers of the Legislature by a two-thirds vote. In the 2022 legislative session, the Legislature restored voting rights for just five individuals.
S.B. 2536 clarified that as the courts expunge criminal records, they should also restore voting rights to those individuals. The modest step, far short of remedying Mississippi’s disqualifying offenses list, was sponsored by Republican lawmakers but vetoed by Reeves who mischaracterized it as “automatically returning voting rights to criminals.” S.B. 2536 also would have created a public registry of individuals who were convicted of misappropriating public funds.