The case for letting ‘Birthright Mississippians’ vote in elections

Published 10:09 am Monday, March 5, 2018

What if Mississippi did the right thing and let all Mississippians vote?

I not advocating lowering the voting age to include toddlers and such – though, come to think of it, they might not do much worse than the grownups. I do support felons who’ve completed their sentences, but they’re not my topic now.

Rather, I speak on behalf of us adult natives who just don’t happen to, strictly speaking, live in Mississippi. Physically.

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Birthright Mississippians, I’ll call us, unmoored for whatever reasons from the place that is still really home. Elvis was one. Archie is. Oprah, I guess.

I’m on the lower end of that spectrum.

I was reminded of my limbo status the other day when I was talking to a fellow and mentioned how long I’d been living in my current house – which is longer than I’ve ever lived in any other residence.

“Well,” he said, “I guess you’re a New Yorker now.”

“No,” I quickly replied. “No, no, no. I’m a Mississippian.”

Which is in some respects more true now than it was during all those years I did live in the state. As I’ve said before in a column that is apparently hidden behind some paywall now, the farther I get from Mississippi, the more Mississippi I feel.

But, disenfranchised. Unable to have an official say on matters of import.

This despite having been born in Mississippi, educated in Mississippi, living in Mississippi for approaching four decades and being a fifth-generation Mississippian.

Meanwhile, under Mississippi law, anyone who is otherwise a U.S. citizen and manages to stay put for 30 days – one month! – can register to vote and have his or her voice fully heard and recorded.

I’m not suggesting they be barred, just that we be added. Remember: This is for Elvis!

Or his memory. Elvis would be disqualified from voting for a completely different reason nowadays.

How about Archie, then? Is there a more revered and (ahem) Sainted Mississippian? And yet, Archie is denied an electoral say in matters, as is his lovely and fellow native wife, Olivia.

I’m not arguing for Peyton, mind you, though perhaps Eli and Cooper, owing to their Ole Miss pedigrees, could be considered permanently naturalized Mississippians.

Clearly, I haven’t worked out all the fine points of my proposal. Another hitch: What if somebody is born in Mississippi but then soon whisked off by parents to, say, Kansas, or Minnesota?

Maybe you should have to finish high school in Mississippi. Or at least some elementary school. Kindergarten? I mean, shoot, Pascagoula claims Jimmy Buffett, and he left before first grade.

And how long was Oprah in Kosciusko? Should she get a vote? It would have to mean forfeiting the right to vote elsewhere.

Again, details. These things can be worked out among reasonable people. All I’m asking is that we Mississippi Birthrighters adrift in other states get the same rights to vote as Americans living in other countries.

I’m not even suggesting that we be able to vote in local elections. I’d settle for the statewide offices. Governor. Lieutenant governor. Attorney general. U.S. senator.

Especially U.S. senator.