Jackson resident Alex Jones considers himself to be an informed citizen. The businessman reads at least one newspaper most days, follows state and national politics and enjoys history. But when he first examined a sample ballot for Initiative 42, which calls for a constitutional amendment to require the state to fund an “adequate and efficient” system of public school districts, he was stumped.
Of about 45 Mississippi residents asked to review the ballot by The Hechinger Report, four were able to complete the sample ballot in a way that accurately reflected their intent. From the Huddle House in Winona to an outlet mall in Pearl; from the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson to a feed store on the outskirts of Greenwood; from outside a gas station in Edwards to a community college campus in Holmes County, Mississippians of varied education levels, ages and backgrounds were puzzled by the ballot’s legal language. They were equally confused by the two different sections that must be marked for the ballot to be counted.