Big win for women in Mississippi, but downsides too

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Perhaps the most contentious issue on the Mississippi ballot Tuesday was Initiative 26, a controversial proposal to define “personhood,” and the legal rights that go along with it, as beginning at the instant an egg is fertilized. The ambiguously worded and short-sighted proposal, if passed, could have had terrible consequences for Mississippi women and their families including: banning abortion without exception, prohibiting many forms of common birth control, and banning In vitro fertilization.

The arguments behind this initiative were passionate and emotional, and polling prior to the election showed that the electorate was split on the issue. However, come Tuesday, Mississippi voters decided that this Initiative was simply too extreme, and soundly rejected it by a 16-point margin.

Another controversial, though less-discussed, topic that Mississippi voters faced was Initiative 27, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require all voters to present a state-issued photo ID to receive a ballot, instead of the several already accepted mediums of determining voter eligibility. This amendment, purportedly to combat “voter fraud”, was best described by Hattiesburg mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Johnny DuPree, who referred to it as “a solution chasing a problem”

In fact, voter fraud in the nation is extremely rare, and has not been a problem. Voter ID laws, which have been popping up in Republican-controlled states, have a different effect: namely, voter suppression. Twenty-one million otherwise eligible American voters lack a photo ID, and these voters tend to fall into categories that typically vote for Democratic candidates: the working poor, the elderly, students, and African Americans.  Due to the lack of voter fraud, these laws can only be viewed as one thing: voter suppression.

Unfortunately, Mississippi voters did not agree that such laws constitute a problem. On Tuesday, Initative 27 was passed with 62% of the vote.

The state governor’s race made Mississippi history, as Democrat Johnny DuPree became the first African American to run as a gubernatorial candidate of a major party since Reconstruction. The Hattiesburg mayor will have to be content with that record, as he lost by a wide margin to the current lieutenant governor, Republican Phil Bryant.

Both candidates supported the Personhood initiative. While DuPree raised “concerns about some of the ramifications,” Bryant became extremely nasty when he told a twice-raped kidnap victim that if the Personhood Initiative failed, then “Satan wins.”  

Republicans dominated most of the statewide office election results, winning back the Statehouse and picking up every major office except for attorney general. Voters crossed party lines to reelect Democratic Attorney General Jim Hoodl. Hood is known for his hard line against insurance companies post-Katrina, as well as his refusal to join a lawsuit against The Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”).

Overall, Mississippi’s election results can be described a bit of a mixed-bag. While the results were not as progressive as those in other states, those standing up for women’s rights, and against religions encroachment into government can claim a big win.

The results of this election are likely to leave many people excited and upset at the same time.

Photo: Blair McElroy // CC 2.0


Ryan C. Ebersole
Ryan C. Ebersole

Ryan Ebersole is a mental health counselor on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Having finished his Masters degree at the University of Southern Mississippi, his undergraduate degree at the University of Evansville in Indiana, high school in the Fort Worth area of Texas and pre-K in Puerto Rico, and having been born in Florida, he has experienced several areas of the county.

While in Indiana, he worked at a social work agency for HIV+ clients, as well as a low-income community drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility - both of which caused him to take a great interest in the stigmatized and the disadvantaged in our society. Now as a mental health professional, he hopes to serve these groups, as well as continue political activism, especially for LGBT and health care rights, on the side.