An effort to erase the Confederate battle emblem from Mississippi's flag is failing because sponsors haven't collected enough signatures to put an initiative on the 2018 ballot.

The petition drive started in response to the June 2015 slayings of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and was part of a movement across the South to rethink the public display of Confederate images.

It appears certain to end Friday with insufficient signatures.

Mississippi has had the flag since 1894, and voters reaffirmed its design in 2001. But seven of the state's eight public universities and several cities and counties have stopped flying it amid criticism that it's a reminder of slavery and segregation in a state with the largest percentage of black residents in the nation.