By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – About 100 people filled the Link Centre on Tuesday night for a public discussion about the three constitutional initiatives that will be on the state’s Nov. 8 ballot.
Most of them had one issue on their minds.
Nearly two-thirds of the two-and-a-half hour forum, and 25 of the 36 public comments were devoted to the question of whether the term “person” in Article III of the state constitution should be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.
The rest of the time was spent discussing whether Mississippi should require voter IDs and whether it should prohibit the government from taking private property and giving it to another person.
Tuesday’s meeting was one of nine being hosted around the state by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann in order to better inform voters about the initiatives. Members of the public could speak for or against each.
“These are three critical initiatives on a constitution that goes back to 1890, and people need to be informed voters,” Hosemann said.
Although the “personhood” amendment isn’t explicitly about abortion, much of the discussion led to that issue. Some cited Christian beliefs and the need to protect the life of the unborn. Others said the beliefs of some shouldn’t be inflicted on all and that the government shouldn’t tell women what to do with their bodies.
Two people spoke in favor of voter identification and no one spoke against it.
On the final issue, Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said that transferring private property to private corporations was “the ugliest example of government excess.”
David Rumbarger, president of the Community Development Foundation, said that he does not like eminent domain but sometimes it is necessary for economic development. In order to get land for Toyota, Rumbarger said, developers needed to acquire land from a church that had been dormant since the 1870s and that didn’t have any descendants who could be found.