Voters to have say on three state issues

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, January 9, 2011

On three topics facing the state, Mississippians in a sense havetaken the law into their own hands and voters in November will getan opportunity to decide the fates of those important issues.

After supporters met the complicated requirements to have theinitiatives put on the ballot, general election voters will decidewhether to require photo voter identification for electionparticipation, whether the state Constitution will say life beginsat conception, and whether the state will be limited in its abilityto take a citizen’s private property through the eminent domainprocess.

State lawmakers have until May 5 to decide whether to offer amendedversions of the initiative measures along side the originals on theNovember 8 ballot. Doing so would add initiative options, butseveral key legislative leaders have indicated no desire to offercompeting proposals.

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The photo voter ID initiative comes in response to years ofinaction by state lawmakers on what has traditionally been cast asa racially divisive issue. Photo voter ID supporters see no suchthing, pointing out that IDs are required to conduct virtually anyeveryday activity, while opponents fear recollections of the dayswhen Jim Crow laws and other activities sought to keep blacks fromvoting.

The measure to define life as beginning at conception rather thanbirth is an obvious pro-life stance to combat abortion. Ifapproved, how the measure would jive with the federal Roe vs. Wadelaw of the land legalizing abortion remains to be seen.

The eminent domain measure represents an effort to preventgovernment from forcing the sale of private property for industrydevelopment projects. It should be noted that eminent domain is notthe “taking” of property, as the government is required to pay fairmarket value for the land in the process and only under certaincircumstances.

Measure supporters contend it will protect private property rightswhile opponents assert it would stifle economic development effortsto attract industry and put Mississippi at a disadvantage whencompeting against other states. As with the other two ballotmeasures, voters will have their say on which side of the eminentdomain fence they stand in November.