Personhood, Voter I.D., and Eminent Domain: A Big Day for Mississippi

Today, Mississippi voters will enter the ballot box and decide on three huge initiatives: personhood, voter identification, and eminent domain.

Many voters will cast their vote considering only the popular opinions of that group of people whom they most respect or think are most sophisticated or even “cool.” This type of voting has been made much easier with the growth of social networking websites such as Facebook. Others will vote based on the emotional sympathies which they themselves hold.

For the libertarian, however, the issue is much simpler in a sense but still more difficult:  The only consideration seems to be whether the legislation would do more to protect or more to obstruct the liberties of individuals. In deciding, the libertarian must recognize the distinciton between what the initiative purports to do, and what it would actually do in reality. But even then, the libertarian must decide whether to vote based on what he or she believes to be the likeliest outcome or what he or she believes to be the worst possible outcome. Particularly in the case of Initiative 26, which defines personhood, this process is terribly difficult and ends with libertarians coming down on both sides of the issue.

YES ON 26!Initiative 26 would ammend the state’s constitution to include in its definition for person, “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivelant thereof.” The language of the initiative is quite simple; the problem lies in the resulting ramifications of defining personhood in this way. Opponents of 26 have warned that if this initiative passes; in vitro fertilization, the morning after birth control, and abortion in the case of rape or the woman’s health being at risk would all be illegal.

NO ON 26!In reality, no one knows exactly what will happen if the initiative passes because an amendment to the state’s contitution is ineffective without the teeth of legislation.

Perhaps the best legal analysis I have seen in favor of 26 comes from a Facebook post by a Mississippi lawyer.  Even if the initiative were to pass, the Mississippi Supreme Court might rule it unconstitutional to amend the Constitution via ballot initiative. Still more, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely have the final say in the matter if 26 were not struck down sooner.

Initiative 27 would:

[A]mend the Mississippi Constitution to require voters to submit a government issued photo identification before being allowed to vote; provides that any voter lacking government issued photo identification may obtain photo identification without charge from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety; and exempts certain residents of state-licensed care facilities and religious objectors from being required to show photo identification in order to vote. “=

This seems pretty simple; the state wants to ensure that everyone voting is doing so legally. Apparently, voter faud is a big deal. And the state will even allow for religious exemption. But why not allow a philosophical exemption? It seems doubtful that someone who is fraudently voting in place of another registered voter would want to draw the kind of scrutiny that an exemption brings. The objecter must cast an affadavit ballot and then confirm the affadavit in the circuit clerk’s office within five days. Allowing for such an exemption would still accomplish the goal of the initiative. The libertarian should consider whether they want another governmental tracking device. Government should protect the secrecy of the citizen, not further curb the citizen’s anonymity.

Initiative 31 would essentially prohibit the government from selling to a private entity any land which had been acquired through eminent domain within the previous ten years. The iniative would offer many exceptions, including land needed for roads and infrastructure or property which has been abandoned or is a public health hazard. This initiative is pretty simple for the libertarian. The initiative may not be perfect, but it would protect private property rights more than the state’s current laws.

Today is a big day in Mississippi. A lot could change — or maybe not much at all. Ironically, the passing of the initiatives may not be the deciding factor between these two possible realities.

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