With 87 percent of the state's precincts reporting, 66 percent of Mississippians had voted to retain the flag, and 34 percent voted to replace it. The banner will now become "the official flag of the state of Mississippi."
Voters chose the 1894 flag over a proposed new design that would have replaced the Confederate symbol with a blue background and 20 white stars. The new flag was proposed by an advisory commission created last year by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
"We now must put aside our differences as we continue to create a state that provides a good quality of life for our people," he said.
"It is important that we accept the majority vote and move forward with the business of bringing new jobs and better opportunities to all Mississippians," Musgrove said.
Mississippi is the only state to still fly the "X" of the Confederacy, an emblem that opponents call a racist symbol. Supporters of the flag say it honors those who fought to protect the rights of the state.
Last year, South Carolina's legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag that flew atop the Statehouse dome. Earlier this year, Georgia's legislature and governor agreed to change the state's flag and reduce the Confederate battle emblem to a small image.
Former Mississippi Gov. William Winter, who was chairman of the study commission and supported the change, said he was disappointed in the referendum results.
"I hope out of this effort will come an increased understanding of our continuing obligation to work for a Mississippi that has its face turned toward the future and not the past," he said.
Mississippi is the nation's poorest state and has the highest percentage of black residents. Supporters of the proposed new flag raised $705,501 for the campaign, while supporters of the existing flag raised $7,646.
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