SID SALTER: Conservative amendments assure heavy voter turnout

By Sid Salter

STARKVILLE – The November general election ballot already bodes well for conservatives in general and the Mississippi GOP in particular, but the three ballot initiatives that confront state voters will be the difference – as they were intended – in a moderate conservative turnout and a heavy one.
Republicans in the Legislature worked hard to get the voter ID issue on the ballot for the general election. The initiative, if passed, would require voters to submit a photo ID in order to vote in a manner that has already survived U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny in 2008 in an appeal from a similar law in Indiana.
Initiative No. 27, the voter ID amendment, would implement virtually the mirror image of the Indiana law in Mississippi. The ballot wording is straightforward: “Should the Mississippi Constitution be amended to require a person to submit government issued photo identification in order to vote?” Voters will be asked to weigh in with a “yes” or “no” vote.
Voter ID will pass by a substantial margin.
The next initiative on the November ballot is Initiative No. 26, the so-called “personhood” initiative, which would redefine the word “person” in the state constitution to include fertilized human eggs and undeveloped embryos.
The ballot wording is as follows: “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof? Voters will be asked to weigh in with a “yes” or “no” vote.
Conservatives expect a nearly uncontested passage of the “personhood” amendment in Mississippi.
In point of fact, adoption of the “personhood” initiative will almost certainly set off a constitutional challenge because of the Roe v. Wade decision, but proponents point to that decision as the genesis of the “personhood” movement because of the late Justice Harry Blackmun’s wording of that landmark decision in which the court declined to define whether or not a fetus was a person.
Regardless the legal challenges, expect Mississippi voters to pass the personhood amendment with strong backing from many of the state’s churches. Les Riley, who has led the “personhood” fight in the state, has said that adoption of the initiative “would ensure equal rights for all human beings regardless of their developmental status, it would outlaw abortion, and it would protect our women and children.”
Abortion rights advocates say the measure could outlaw the birth control pill, stem cell research, emergency contraception for rape victims, and in vitro fertilization.
Such a measure has failed twice in Colorado. Mississippi is the only state with the personhood issue on the ballot, but similar efforts are underway in Ohio, Montana and Florida.
The third ballot initiative in Mississippi on the Nov. general election ballot is Initiative No. 31, the eminent domain initiative. The ballot wording is: “Should government be prohibited from taking private property by eminent domain and then transferring it to other persons?” Again, voters will be asked to weigh in with a “yes” or “no” vote.
Gov. Haley Barbour has been a significant opponent of tightening the state’s eminent domain laws. But this is one issue in which voters will break with Barbour. The Mississippi Farm Bureau is expected to play the key role in the success of the eminent domain initiative.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at 662-325-2506 or ssalter@library.msstate.edu.