When I checked the news on last night before I went to bed my jaw dropped.
The 2011 voting results were in, and they spelled major victories for civil libertarians across the nation. Here are the highlights:
1) Mississippi “Personhood” Amendment defeated
On Tuesday Mississippi voters soundly rejected a amendment to the state constitution that would define a fertilized egg as a person with all the rights thereof. This is of course a fantastically absurd, really bad, terrible idea. For many reasons.
By this definition, certain forms of birth control could be considered murder. For instance, the Intrauterine Device (IUD) prevents pregnancy by keeping fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterine wall. So under the so-called “personhood” amendment should women with IUDs be charged as serial killers? What about fertility doctors who implant several fertilized eggs and then destroy all but the most viable?
Bottom line: anti-choice extremists have no business forcing their own religious world view on the rest of the population. Women have the right to make private reproductive heathcare choices in consultation with their doctor. That’s why Mississipians voted down this ballot measure by an overwhelming 16 point margin.
2) Russell Pierce, architect of SB 1070, recalled in Arizona
I’ll preface this with a reminder that the ACLU does not endorse or oppose political candidates. We do, however, weigh in on the policy issues they are responsible for. Russell Pearce, Senate Majority leader in Arizona, is best known as the architect of the unfair, discriminatory “Show me your papers” law passed in Arizona last year. This law would require law enforcement officials in Arizona to investigate the immigration status of anyone they “suspected” of being in the country without the proper documents. Essentially, the law is a mandate for state-sponsored racial profiling.
Yesterday, Arizona voters recalled Senator Pearce, replacing him with another Republican with a more mainstream stance on immigration issues. This recall move was widely seen as a referendum on last year’s unconstitutional immigration law.
Bottom line: state and local law enforcement should not be responsible for enforcing federal immigration law. It hurts our communities, destroys trust in law enforcement and leads to racial profiling of people who look or sound “foreign.” Arizona voters sent a strong message yesterday, repudiating anti-immigrant scapegoating.
3) Same day voter registration stays in Maine
In a bald-faced move to suppress certain groups of voters, the Maine Legislature passed a law in the last legislative session that eliminated election day voter registration. Their excuse for passing this vote-suppressing law will be familiar to New Mexicans–voter fraud! Rampant, pervasive voter fraud!
In Maine, like New Mexico, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Yesterday, Maine voters saw through the legislature’s political move and overwhelmingly rejected the new law with 59 percent of the vote.
Bottom line: Our leaders shouldn’t play politics with the foundation of our democracy, our elections system.
Bottom line-bottom line?
When civil libertarians organize together and stand up for the Constitution, there is no limit to what we can overcome–and ACLU members played a big role. The ACLU of Mississippi was part of the coalition that helped defeat the “personhood”amendment, the ACLU of Maine actively organized to overturn the voter-suppressing repeal of election day registration, and the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit blocking key parts of the “Show me your papers law.”
So keep standing up for liberty with the ACLU. It’s hard work, but days like yesterday remind us what we’re fighting for.