The commission charged with recommending a new Mississippi flag for the November referendum has already done a lot of the heavy lifting.

Earlier this week, the nine-member panel announced it had whittled down 1,800 submitted designs by more than 90%. The 151 still left favor several images. Among the most common elements are stars, ranging in number from one to 20; a magnolia blossom, curving lines to represent the Mississippi River, and plenty of traditional red, white and blue combinations that echo the American flag’s colors.

The Legislature, in removing the prior flag, set only two rules for the new one: It had to include the phrase “In God We Trust,” and it could not include any Confederacy-themed designs.

The finalists, available for viewing at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s website, www.mdah.ms.gov, are a fairly ordinary group of designs. This is not meant as a criticism: After years of divisive debates over the old flag, the state will do just fine with something a little less controversial.

The flag commission does not have to choose any of the designs. It can blend elements of several flags or start from scratch and come up with something on its own. But if the group is willing to listen to the people who took the time to submit entries, a few of them are definite candidates for the November ballot.

Using the design idea that less is more — something that focuses on just a few symbols rather than a bunch of them, here are some of the more appealing choices. Hopefully some of them will make it to the round of five finalists, which are scheduled to be announced Friday.

• Flag CS5 is blue and red, divided by a white curvy vertical line to symbolize the river, with a white magnolia blossom on the left-hand side.

• CS10 has a wider “river” separating blue and red sides with a large white star on the left.

• E1020 is the state seal on a background of horizontal blue, white and red thirds.

• E1023 has a blossom on top of a gray horizontal line, which splits a forest green background.

• E1147 has the state’s full outline surrounded by 20 stars, representing Mississippi as the 20th state in the Union. It also includes the familiar “Mississippi” logo with the greatly curved S letters.

• E1392 has five curving horizontal lines along the bottom, with a white flowery design at the top left against a blue background.

• K1032 features a large magnolia blossom with the outline of the state’s western side.

But the flag that stands out at first glance is CS8. It is an elegant and simple design — a combination difficult to achieve in a flag.

CS8 has a white magnolia blossom on top of four green leaves in the very center, set against a soft blue background. “In God We Trust” is on a white ribbon at the bottom of the design It calls to mind the Texas “lone star” flag and the Canadian maple leaf flag, both of which say much despite using only a few symbols and colors.

CS8’s light blue background makes it stand out against the other submissions, which greatly favor red, white and blue. There’s nothing wrong with those colors, of course, but there’s also nothing wrong with Mississippi choosing a different path for its flag. Our history shows we tend to do that quite often.

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