Mississippi seems to have enough votes to change state flag, says lead legislator

Mississippi lawmakers who want to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag appear to have enough votes in the state Legislature to make the change, a senior state lawmaker said Friday.

State Representative Robert Johnson III, the Democratic leader of the state House of Representatives, told NBC News that all the necessary votes “appear to be there,” adding that legislative action could occur as early as Friday.

Mississippi is the last state in the nation whose flag features the Confederate emblem.

“Supporters of a flag change worked overnight to secure the remaining votes necessary for a successful vote to change the state flag,” Johnson said. “The votes to make that change are in the House and appear to be in the Senate. It is quite possible that a first step will be taken in the House today by passing a suspension of the rules to take a bill to remove the current state flag “

Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican who has opposed changing the flag through the legislature, acknowledged Thursday in a Facebook post that vetoing such legislation would be “useless.”

The governor has long said that any action to change the state flag must occur through the vote of the people. In 2001, Mississippi voters had the opportunity to change the flag through a public referendum, and 64 percent decided not to.

The current flag was first adopted in 1894 and features red, white, and blue stripes with the Confederate battle emblem in the corner. Proposals to change the flag have repeatedly come up in the state chamber, but they have always died.

This is a developing story; Check back for updates.