A magnolia blossom is one step closer to adorning the state flag of Mississippi, but voters get the final say in November.

On Wednesday morning, a panel of appointees named by the state’s top political leaders voted to select their final flag of choice to appear on a statewide ballot.

The flag selected by the nine-member commission features a magnolia blossom surrounded by a circle of 20 white stars, one gold star and the phrase, “In God We Trust.” Set against a blue background, the blossom is flanked on either side by vertical bars of gold and red.

The commission initially voted 8-1 using paper ballots in favor of the magnolia flag over another featuring a shield and a single star. This first vote featured paper ballots with no voting totals announced, but the Daily Journal learned through a public records request that only T.J. Taylor did not vote to support of the magnolia design.

After the initial vote, the commission then moved to unanimously adopt the majority-favored flag as its selection.

Following the vote, commission chairman Reuben Anderson, who served as the state’s first Black justice on the state Supreme Court, marked the historic moment as Mississippi moves one step closer toward the selection of a new flag.

“We will send a message that we live in the future and not in the past,” Anderson said.

There will a single flag design on the ballot in November, and voters will face a choice to either support or reject the commission’s flag. There won’t be any other flags on the ballot, and there will be no option to support the 1894 flag retired by the Legislature this summer.

If voters support the commission’s selection, then state law calls for the Legislature to formally adopt the flag next year; if voters reject the commission’s selection, commission members will go back to work, select a new flag design, and it will go back to voters in another statewide referendum election.

Ahead of November’s vote, a vote education initiative will occur, as approved by the flag commission on Wednesday. This initiative will educate voters about the presence of the flag referendum on the November ballot.

The commission also decided, Wednesday, that the chosen flag design will be referred to as the “In God We Trust” design in the lead-up to November’s election. The law that initiated the design of a new state flag also required the inclusion of those words, which are also on the state’s seal.

Wednesday’s vote caps off a process that began in July, following the retirement of the 1894 flag, which was the last state flag in the nation to feature the Confederate battle emblem.

The legislation that retired the flag also ordered the creation of a commission to choose a flag design for the November’s ballot, and that commission held its first meeting in July.

caleb.bedillion@journalinc.com

Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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