Elect a True Democrat
Marshand Crisler Transportation Commissioner “Your safety is my number one priority.” ~Marshand K. Crisler
Don’t worry about getting stuck on “the stack” in an ice storm this year! Count on Crisler to get you home safely.
Marshand K. Crisler Candidate for Central District of MS Transportation Commissioner
The Fall Home Issue Using Color • Adler Style • Home Ownership Dealing with Clutter • Green Cleaning Man Caves • Décor on the Cheap • When to Remodel
~Make Your Vote Count Double~ Take a friend to the polls to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8th!!
If we show up, we WILL WIN!!
November 2 - 8, 2011
paid for by Crisler for Commissioner
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November 2 - 8, 2011
10 NO. 8
contents FILE PHOTO
6 Bike Heaven Jackson gets a $1.1 million grant to make the long awaited Rails to Trails project a reality. MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
Cover design by Kristin Brenemen
The Edna Mae Sanders case raises questions about domestic violence and former judge Steve Simpson. COURTESY PATRIK-IAN POLK
megan prosper mately 200 people showed up for the reception. She also had a classical guitarist playing flamenco music in the rotunda. Now, the Fondren resident is pursuing her passions in two different ways. Prosper has her first part-time art-teaching job at The Veritas School in Ridgeland. She says that it has been an enjoyable learning experience. In the classroom, she incorporates art history and other things that she learned at Belhaven. “Art is one of those areas where it’s OK to break the rules,” she says, adding that projects she gives her students encourage them to think outside societal boundaries. “It’s awesome to be able to inspire kids to do that.” Prosper also works as a sales associate at Anthropologie and hopes to be on its design team one day. Another important aspect of Prosper’s life is mission work. She traveled to São Paulo, Brazil, with a group called ZOE Ministry and to Peru with Twin Lakes Camp, a ministry of Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church. Prosper sees Jackson as a good place to get one’s feet wet. She strives to do the unexpected with her artwork and refuses to let anyone, including herself, tell her that any idea is too big or too crazy. “I still feel like there is something more for me here as far as opportunities in art,” she says. “I think there is a lot of potential here in this city.” —Briana Robinson
28 Indie Mississippi Hattiesburg native Patrik-Ian Polk is making award-winning independent films.
38 Game of the Year Who’s playing, what will make the difference and who will take the field Saturday. Flynn reports.
During October, Belhaven University’s Bitsy Irby Visual Arts and Dance Building gallery was home to Megan Prosper’s artwork. Black-and-white photographs lined one wall while another had seemingly random dangling items. Her artwork consists of “bits and pieces of scraps and old throwaway things” that she has put together to make something beautiful. Originally from Moreno Valley, Calif., Prosper has never lived in any one place for more than three years. Her father was in the Air Force, and as she was growing up, Prosper lived in many different places including Korea and Germany. She says a search for home is a prominent theme in her work as a result. Prosper, 23, is a 2011 Belhaven University graduate with degrees in biblical studies and visual arts. She specifically wanted to go to a school that had these two majors. “For me, they’re really similar. When I’m creating artwork or researching for a piece that I want to do, a lot of themes and ideas that run through it have a thread back to the Bible,” Prosper says. “For me, art is a way to get closer to God and understand the truth of this world and about Himself. … I knew that I needed to study both biblical studies and art.” Prosper’s senior show last March was such a huge hit that the school invited her back last month to show it again. In March, the show lasted for two and a half weeks, and approxi-
4 ............. Editor’s Note 4 ................... Slowpoke 7 .......................... Talks 12 ................... Editorial 12 .................... Chatter 12 .................... Stiggers 13 .................. Opinion 28 ............... Diversions 30 ....................... Books 31 ..................... 8 Days 32 .............. JFP Events 35 ........................ Music 36 .......... Music Listing 38 ...................... Sports 40 ................. Astrology 41 ........................ Food 45 ............... Body/Soul
Was it Murder?
Valerie Wells is assistant editor of the JFP and BOOM Jackson. She’s interested in covering the media in Mississippi and figuring out who controls the news. Email ideas to Valerie@jacksonfreepress.com. She wrote the main cover story about the Personhood Initiative.
Lacey McLaughlin News Editor Lacey McLaughlin is a Florida native who enjoys riding her bike around Jackson. She is always on the hunt for news tips. E-mail Lacey@jacksonfreepress.com or call 601.362.6121 x. 22. She wrote a cover story about the “Yes on 26” campaign and several news pieces.
Elizabeth Waibel Reporter Elizabeth Waibel grew up in Clinton. In May, she received her journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tenn. She likes coffee and trying new cake recipes. She contributed to the cover package, writing about voter ID and eminent domain, and wrote talks.
Andrea Thomas Advertising Designer Andrea Thomas is a native of Ridgeland and is a recent Antonelli College graduate. She loves to sing, dance, write poetry and stalk people on Facebook in her free time. She designed many ads for this issue.
Briana Robinson Deputy Editor Briana Robinson is a 2010 graduate of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Her hobbies include photography, ballet and ballroom dancing. She is a sophomore at Millsaps College. She wrote the Jacksonian.
Tom Head Freelance writer Tom Head is a Jackson native. He has written or co-written 24 nonfiction books, is a civil liberties writer for About. com and is a grassroots progressive activist. He wrote a book review.
Jane Flood Jane Flood has led a full life. She has lived in, visited and tasted cuisine the world over. She has taught Pilates to Saints, written a romance novel and fed Thai royalty. She currently lives in Fondren. She wrote a food piece.
November 2 - 8, 2011
Advertising Director Kimberly Griffin is a Jackson native who likes yoga, supporting locally owned businesses and traveling. In her spare time, she plots how she can become Michelle Obama’s water holder.
JFP Endorsements: Vote Nov. 8 Governor: Johnny DuPree, D Despite Mayor DuPree’s unfortunate support for the Personhood Initiative, he is the clear choice for governor against Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who has veered so far to the right that we’ve had a hard time finding a Republican who will tell us they are happy about voting for him. For several years now, we have documented Lt. Gov. Bryant’s growing extremism, which has turned into sheer pandering to the Tea Party. Bryant supports nonsensical (and expensive) government regulation such as an Arizona-style anti-immigrant law, and he has called for an empty voter ID initiative that will cost the taxpayers at least a million dollars with no evidence that it will reduce actual voter fraud. He made no secret about his desire to simply redistrict voting strength away from the state’s majority-black areas. Bryant also seems to be running more against President Obama and “Obamacare” (see page 45) than against DuPree. Bryant makes Gov. Barbour look moderate and thoughtful by comparison. DuPree has “executive branch” experience (vs. Bryant’s legislative resume) and, very importantly, takes a strong stance in favor of improving public education—and seems to understand much better than Bryant that any “job creation” efforts will be useless without an educated work force. DuPree also understands that creating jobs is about more than giving corporations anything they want. We know a black man—even a conservative-tomoderate one such as DuPree—has an uphill battle in a state with Mississippi’s race history. But we agree with endorsers such as the Biloxi Sun-Herald that he is the far better, and less divisive, choice than Phil Bryant. On top of that, DuPree’s election will go far to send a message—including to job creators elsewhere—that Mississippi has changed. Let’s elect DuPree. COURTESY JOHNNY DUPREE CAMPAIGN
Attorney General: Jim Hood, D We won’t hide that Hood sometimes worries us (such as with his support of Personhood and the death penalty), but he is a far superior choice than Steve Simpson. Hood unabashedly works against domestic abuse in the state, and we appreciate his efforts to hold misbehaving corporations accountable and bring money into the state, which his opponent seems unlikely to do. Not to mention, it is a huge disappointment to see Simpson not have anything better to do with his campaign signs than run against “Obamacare.” He is making the state look bad before taking office. This one is clear: Re-elect Jim Hood. State Treasurer: Connie Moran, D Moran, the mayor of Ocean Springs, is another obvious choice, although her opponent is better funded. Moran has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in finance and international commerce from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. In the 1990s,
she served as managing director for the Mississippi European Office in Frankfurt, Germany, recruiting new business and industry to the state for the Mississippi Development Authority. She also worked as an economist at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. She would be an exciting, forward-thinking choice as treasurer. Moran is a refreshingly smart choice. Commissioner of Insurance: Mike Chaney, R We were concerned about Chaney four years ago, but must say that he is probably our favorite statewide Republican. Granted, it’s in part because he is willing to answer our questions in a forthright manner. He is also a clear advocate on behalf of disaster victims. He’s in the right job. Transportation Commissioner, Central District: Marshand Crisler, D We made our decision based on one Jacksoncentric issue: Dick Hall supports the kind of superhighway to Flowood that is anathema to smart urban planning, and Crisler does not. Vote for Crisler. State Senate, District 29: David Blount, D Blount has proved a refreshing senator in a Senate without a lot of them. We especially applaud his work on behalf of public education and passing stronger laws on behalf of domestic-abuse victims. House, District 64: Dorsey Carson, D The choice could not be clearer. The incumbent, Bill Denny, is a dug-in conservative who seldom seems to have issues facing the metro close at heart. Carson is a personable, energetic advocate for public education—and when he talks about fighting crime, it is evidence-based. He understands the roots of crime and wants to bring that intelligence to the state Legislature. Vote Carson in District 64. House, District 73: Brad Oberhousen, D We like Oberhousen, a personable Raymond native, because he is talking smart development in a district where we need to hear that more often. We want to see our Byram, Terry and Raymond readers enjoy the kind of economic development coming to other parts of the city. Vote Oberhousen. Hinds County Supervisor, District 1: John Dennery, R We have watched with dismay as incumbent Robert Graham has come unraveled through controversies uncovered and reported by this paper and other media outlets. And he has refused to address most of the issues, leaving us no choice but to urge voters to vote against him. Dennery is a long-time and respected businessman in Jackson, and we hope he serves the entire county with integrity and compassion. Hinds County Supervisor, District 3: Peggy Hobson Calhoun, D Calhoun has long been one of the few Hinds supervisors who will speak out when needed and chal-
lenge some of the questionable decisions the supervisors—who too often see themselves as untouchable kings—made on the taxpayers’ behalf. We can’t afford to lose her now. Justice Court Judge, District 1: Don Palmer, D This is as much a vote against Palmer’s listed opponent (as of press day) as for him. His opponent, James Hendrix, is a controversial local blogger who goes by various names and promotes often-anonymous trash talk on his site (and then sells candidates ads around it). Is he a serious candidate? It’s hard to tell. He has refused an interview and told our reporters he is dropping out, but as of Nov. 1, his name was still on the ballot. Whatever his story of the day, this blogger of many names certainly has no business as a judge. Vote for Palmer, clearly the more serious candidate. Justice Court Judge, District 4: Damon R. Stevenson, D As an intelligent and impressive young attorney, Damon Stevenson strikes us as exactly the kind of judge we would like to see in the metro’s future. The 28-year-old Tougaloo graduate (degree in economics) and Mississippi College Law School graduate owns his own firm, the Stevenson Legal Group, and is the only candidate who appears to have a campaign website listing his qualifications—and wants to help bring the judicial system into this century. Stevenson is a native of Brandon who currently lives in Raymond with his wife, Jessica Morris Stevenson. He worked as a federal probation officer after law school until he opened his firm in 2009. Vote for Stevenson. NO on Initiative 26, Personhood This effort, led by men, many from out of state, is an upside-down effort to outlaw abortion, but with no regard for the life of the mother or the dangerous problems inherent in letting government make difficult and painful family decisions. Regardless of your position on abortion, this initiative clearly goes way too far, leaving the door open for legislators and judges to hurt families and even not allow them to choose whether their mother can live. There are much more intelligent, compassionate ways to discuss lowering unwanted pregnancy and abortion rates. This must be voted down. NO on Initiative 27, Voter ID The effort to require voter identification at the polls is expensive and redundant government regulation at its most absurd. Its supporters can point to no evidence that it will actually fix existing voter fraud, and it will cost taxpayers and voters. Throw this garbage in the trashcan where it belongs. YES on Initiative 31, Eminent Domain Sadly, the state of Mississippi under Gov. Haley Barbour showed how much this effort is needed—to stop government from overstepping its authority to get private land for cheap and then give it to corporations (such as Nissan) and developers. Note that voting for No. 31 will not stop the government from condemning blighted areas and taking uninhabitable properties and later selling them to developers. It will simply stop abuse of eminent domain in the form of corporate welfare. Vote yes.
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ONE BRAVE NIGHT A Benefit for A Brave New Day At Safe Harbor United Church of Christ 1345 Flowood Drive Flowood, MS
Friday Night 11.11.11 | 7-10 PM â€˘ Drag Queen Bingo! â€˘ Everybody Wins Raffle â€˘ RuPamâ€™s Drag Race & Variety Show! Featuring World Premier Food by: Sugar Mag Takery
Grand Prize $250 Gift Card Join us for the AFTER-PARTY 11:11 PM at Bottoms UP! with a Special Benefit Show by Jacksonâ€™s Finest Entertainment For ticket information contact: A Brave New Day 601. 713. 3999 or Facebook Us A Brave New Day is a peer-driven nonprofit. We are survivors helping survivors. We sponsor a statewide HIV support network, a local HIV support group open to all HIV+ people, and a transgender support group.
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news, culture & irreverence
Thursday, Oct. 27 The Environmental Protection Agency holds a meeting about the cleanup of the hazardous-waste site of KerrMcGee Chemical plant in Columbus. … More than 20 medical professionals hold a press conference at the state Capitol to speak out against Initiative 26. Friday, Oct. 28 A federal judge approves a $1.2 billion government settlement with black farmers to whom the Department of Agriculture unfairly denied loans and financial assistance over the years. Saturday, Oct. 29 A Taliban suicide bomber kills 12 American soldiers, making it the deadliest attack against Americans since the war began. … Mississippi State beats Kentucky 28 to 16. Sunday, Oct. 30 Three Ole Miss freshmen from Madison die in a car accident while driving back to school after a trip home. … The United Nations marks the birth of the world’s 7th billionth child. ... New Orleans Saints lost to the St. Louis Rams, handing that team its first victory.
November 2 - 8, 2011
Tuesday, Nov. 1 C Spire Wireless announces that it will begin selling the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 on Nov. 11. … After customer complaints over debit card-free increases, SunTrust and Regions bank announce they will cancel the monthly charges. ... St. Louis native R.L. Nave starts his new reporter gig at the JFP. Watch for him. Breaking updates at jfpdaily.com.
by R.L. Nave
t’s probably not every day that a state “It’s going to be a great thing when I can check, the $1.1 million allocation comes transportation commissioner double- take my bike and ride down into the capital from transportation enhancement funds that high-fives a sitting mayor. city,” Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee said. Congress sets aside for infrastructure improveDick Hall, central district transportation Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. noted ments that Hall stresses “are not buildings, commissioner, and Gary Rhoads, Flowood’s that the city has been talking for a long time roads or bridges.” mayor, were in a celebratory mood this week about a building such a system to connect the The enhancement funding takes care of because $1.1 million in federal 80 percent of the total fundfunds were finally secured for ing; the local public agencies the Museum to Market Bike to which the money is allotted Trail project. must make up the remaining The result of an effort 20 percent. between bicyclists, the city of Dr. Clay Hays, the forJackson and the Greater Jackmer chairman of the Greater son Chamber Partnership, the Jackson Chamber Partnertrail will run from the Missisship, said that the project came sippi Agriculture and Forestry about partly as a way to address Museum on Lakeland Drive, the state’s obesity problem. alongside Riverside Drive in “There are not many front of the Mississippi Chilplaces that are safe to go walkdren’s Museum to the Farmers ing,” Hayes said. The trail, Market and Mississippi State which can also be used as a Fairgrounds on High Street. walking trail, is a good step toTransportation Commissioner Dick Hall (right) presents Mayor Harvey The trail is a former rail- Johnson Jr. with $1.1 million to guild a multi-use trail through the city. ward promoting active lifestyles, road line. Hayes said, and others agreed. “I wish we had done this In preparation for con20 or 30 years ago when I was young enough existing bike paths in the metropolitan area. struction, local volunteers have held several to really enjoy these facilities that are going to He said that the project will help promote rec- clean-up days. Another one is scheduled for be built,” Hall said at the check presentation reation and create jobs. this Saturday, Nov. 5, from 8 a.m. to noon. ceremony at the chamber’s downtown offices “We look to start churning dirt, then Participants can meet at the corner of on Tuesday. putting people to work, then bicycling,” John- Greymont and Moody streets, and are asked Eventually, the Jackson metro’s museum- son said Tuesday. to bring tools and gloves. Call 601-212-6162 to-market trail will link Jackson to Flowood Presented to Mayor Johnson by Com- for more information. and Ridgeland. missioner Hall in the form of an over-sized Comment at www.jfp.ms.
13 Lame Excuses for Not Voting w
Nov. 8 is Election Day in Mississippi. Don’t be a loser by not even showing up to vote. But if you must, here are a baker’s dozen of lame excuses to be lame. • • • • • • • • •
“If I could be a woman to answer your question better, I would, but God made me a male, so there you go.” —Yes on 26 Campaign Director Brad Prewitt in regard to why his organization is predominately staffed by men.
• • • •
I thought it was Saturday. I don’t know where my polling place is. I lost my ID. Lame Excuse No. 11: It’s I don’t have a ride. Because Delbert Hosemann told me not to. My candidate’s going to lose anyway. I gave voting up for Lent. I have to work. Because I have to hold my nose to choose. My vote doesn’t count anyway. It’s raining. It’s JFP press day. Because I’m a lazy bum and a useless piece of poo.
Monday, Oct. 31 The U.S. Supreme Court rejects an NAACP appeal over the state of Mississippi’s failed redistricting plan. … Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain denies accusations that he sexually harassed two female employees in the 1990s. ... The kiddies trick-or-treated.
Multi-Use Trail Gets Funding
John Dennery is a late candidate for a Hinds County Supervisors seat. p 8
Wednesday, Oct. 26 The Jackson Redevelopment Authority considers establishing a special tax district to helping finance a $27 million parking garage and adjoining commercial space in the Old Capitol Green development. … Rosemary Barbour, wife of Gov. Haley Barbour’s nephew, appeals a federal court ruling finding her guilty of maintaining fraudulent contracts after Hurricane Katrina.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, 1973. The Court ruled that a woman could choose abortion in the early months of pregnancy until viability, which was defined as the point at which a fetus can potentially live outside the womb.
by Elizabeth Waibel
Absent-Minded Balloting WARD SCHAEFER
lower return than average. Cochran says absentee voting usually shows a trend in voter turnout at the polls. Heavy turnout in absentee voting generally predicts heavy turnout on Election Day. “It’s indicative of what kind of turnout you get,” she said. “It has not been a really heavy year as far as absentee voting is concerned.” Hinds County has more than 123,000 registered voters. Madison County Circuit Clerk Lee Westbrook said her office has received 675 requests for absentee ballots so far, and 528 have been returned. That’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office left a lower number than four years the cost of the three voter initiatives off the first ago, and about the same number absentee ballots produced. as for the primary in August. Like Cochran, Westbrook espite a mistake in preparing ab- said absentee voting is usually a good indisentee ballots, state officials say cator of how many people will turn out to people’s votes will be counted, vote next week. but could present legal chal“With so many important races on the lenges later. An error in preparing them ballot, I cannot imagine why more voters initially left information about the cost of are not coming in to vote absentee unless the three initiatives off absentee ballots. everybody is going to be in town on that After the error was discovered, some day,” she said. counties had to reprint their ballots. This year, voters will decide on three Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s ballot initiatives—whether “personhood” office prepared the absentee ballots in legally begins at the moment of fertilizaSeptember and sent them to the counties tion, whether the state can take land by to be printed without the fiscal analysis. eminent domain and transfer it to private The attorney general’s office discov- owners, and whether voters should have to ered the mistake, and Hosemann’s office present photo identification at the polls. sent the counties the fiscal analysis to inAlthough the budget office did not clude with future ballots. find any costs associated with the personThe state constitution mandates that hood or eminent-domain initiatives, voter a fiscal analysis from the Legislative Budget identification will cost taxpayers, because Office for each initiative must appear on the state would have to provide free photo the ballot. ID cards of some kind to voters who do not Some absentee ballots had already been already have them. sent out without the information when the The Legislature will have to work out mistake was discovered, however. the specifics of voter identification if the Both the secretary of state’s office and initiative passes. the attorney general’s office say those balSen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, prolots are valid and will be counted, although posed the initiative, and he estimated that a spokeswoman for the attorney general it would cost $100,000 to provide free said the error could possibly open the door voter-identification cards to people who do for a legal challenge after the election. not have a photo ID already. Hinds County Election CommisThe Legislative Budget Office used sioner Connie Cochran said officials have a different method to estimate the cost of now reprinted the absentee ballots with the the initiative, however, and put the voter fiscal impact information on them. The ID price tag at almost $1.5 million. While secretary of state’s office is paying to reprint Fillingane assumed the Legislature would the absentee ballots, but Pamela Weaver, vote in favor of a new ID that could only communications director for the secretary be used for voting and few people would of state, said she did not know how much need one, the budget office assumed the that would cost or how many counties have state would provide the ID cards that are reprinted their absentee ballots. already available through the Department Despite the hullabaloo about getting of Public Safety. If that is the case, people the information right on the absentee bal- could use those ID cards for things other lots, voter turnout may be a bigger problem. than voting, such as cashing a check, but As of Tuesday afternoon, Hinds County the Department of Public Safety would Commissioner Jermal Clark said voters in lose revenue by providing them for free. the county had returned 819 ballots—a Comment at www.jfp.ms.
Experience Counts As your Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall is committed to: • Protecting Mississippi construction jobs. • Making sure citizens and local leaders have input into MDOT projects in their community. • Developing and maintaining an integrated transportation system that promotes economic development and helps create jobs. • Building the safest roads and bridges possible doing it on time, and on budget.
On November 8th vote to re-elect Dick Hall.
Paid for by the Dick Hall Campaign.
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What’s it like coming into a race a little late in the game? Well, it’s been really invigorating. I’ve done a lot of research on the board of supervisors and the minutes, and the more I find out about the actions (of) the majority of the board, the more concerned I become and the more committed I become to get onto the board of supervisors, where I feel I can make a positive change. Why did you want to be the replacement candidate? I had heard that Roger was going to withdraw. I had been retired for three years. I saw it as an opportunity to serve in a way I was not going to be able to if I was running a business. I felt like I could make a difference by bringing my 33 years of business experience. Which of the board’s actions concerned you? The no-bid contracts that the board
has chosen by majority vote to continue even as recently as two weeks ago, that in my opinion should be bid on and aren’t. Even when several members of the board ask for them to be bid, the majority overrides them, and they continue to do business and not bid out the work.
problems he has. It doesn’t reflect well on the board of supervisors or Hinds County. I can’t speak for Robert (Graham) or the district attorney or state auditor, but to have these accusations are very worrisome.
COURTESY JOHN DENNERY
f Hinds County Supervisor candidate John Dennery had to choose an animal he identifies with the most, he says he would pick a guard dog. The Republican candidate for the District 1 seat isn’t happy about how the board has spent taxpayer money over the past few years and pledges that he will eliminate wasteful spending if elected. The 58-year-old Jackson native owned and operated Dennery’s Restaurant for 33 years before closing it in 2008 and retiring. On Sept. 13, weeks after the Republican primary, Dennery announced his candidacy when Roger Davis dropped out of the race. Dennery currently lives in northeast Jackson with his wife, Laura. He called the Jackson Free Press from Tate Reeves’ former campaign office on Lakeland Drive in Jackson. Reeves, who won the Republican primary for lieutenant governor against Billy Hewes and is running unopposed in the general election, is donating office space to Dennery, who is a family friend.
John Dennery is running as the Republican candidate for Hinds County Board of Supervisors in District 1 against incumbent Robert Graham.
Is it against the law to not require bids for contracts? You would have to ask the attorney general. I don’t know if it’s against the law or not, but I don’t think it’s right. Someone has to stand up for taxpayers and spend our money more responsibly. Your opponent received a demand from the state auditor for time-clock infractions he received for working simultaneously as an instructor for the Jackson Police Department and the city of Jackson. What are your thoughts on that? I’m disappointed to hear about the
The board of supervisors has been criticized for its handling of the county’s budget and having to furlough employees. What would do you differently? I think that by using our taxpayer dollars more effectively and efficiently, that would allow us to balance our budget and not balance it on the backs of our county employees. … On one hand, you authorize a company to do work and not have a competitive bid and not know how much money you might have saved, and then you turn around and ask county employees to take days off. I think that’s just wrong. How would you like to prioritize economic-development projects in Hinds County? Our city and county need to have the same type of focused effort on development like some of our neighboring counties have created. I hope to work with the majority of the board of supervisors to develop and continue to develop the plans they have set out with. I know there is a lot of interest in developing a corridor in Byram. I know there is a lot of interest in redeveloping the Highway 80 corridor. One of the things I want to try to focus on is eliminating waste in our county budget and creating a source of surplus funds we can use to help encourage economic development. At the same time we need to look down the road (to) how we can work more effectively to lower the tax burden of citizens. We in Hinds County are being taxed at a millage rate that is 20 percent higher than Rankin or Madison County. To a businessperson, having a 20 percent disadvantage makes it a very compelling reason to take business outside the county. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
Revealing Heaven On Earth
by Lacey McLaughlin
Self Defense or Murder?
her guilty of manslaughter. During her trial, Simpson would not let Edna Mae testify that on the night on July 2006, she heard noises in her daughter’s bedroom. When she investigated, she said, she found Sherman raping her daughter. Simpson said in a JFP interview in September that there was no evidence to support the rape and that neither Kayla nor Edna Mae reported it to authorities prior to the trial. According to Edna Mae, when she entered her daughter’s bedroom, Sherman struck her and then proceeded to drag her across the floor. He continued the beating in the family’s living room. “I was being tossed around like a rag doll, and I Attorney General candidate Steve Simpson sent Edna Sanders to prison for life after a jury convicted her of was thrown into a wall in the Mae manslaughter in the death of her husband. The Mississippi living room,” she said to the Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction. court during her trial. Simpson also prevented Edna Mae from telling the jury what her husband was saying while he was going to the back and get a gun, why he was beating her, calling it hearsay. Edna didn’t she just get her daughter and go out Mae’s attorney, Brian Alexander, says that the front door? ... The problem was that it Sherman was telling Edna Mae that he was was inconsistent with the evidence.” going to kill her. Sherman Sanders was a In March, the Mississippi Court of hunter and kept his gun under the mattress, Appeals overturned Sanders’ conviction, Alexander told the Jackson Free Press Oct. saying Simpson’s court should have told 27. “I thought he was going back there to the jury that the law did not require Edna get a gun and shoot me,” Edna Mae told Mae to retreat from her home when she felt the jury. threatened, and for excluding evidence in That’s when Edna Mae says she support of her claim of self-defense. remembered a pot of cooking oil heating The case is now with the Mississippi on the stove. She had started to make a Supreme Court, which has until February late-night snack. She grabbed to decide whether to grant Sanders a retrial the pot, went back into the or uphold the original conviction. bedroom and dropped the “The jury did not get to understand pot of oil on him. She then the full context of what was going on, and said she ran out of the house, that is highly prejudicial to the defendant,” got her children and drove Alexander said. to Louisiana. Simpson has defended his role in the Simpson said during case, stating that the police never found a a September interview that gun in the Sanders’ home. Alexander argues when Sherman went back to that because Sherman Sanders was coherent the bedroom, Edna Mae could when paramedics showed up at 2 a.m., there have used that as an opportu- is a good chance he hid his weapon. But even nity to flee the home through if there wasn’t a gun, it should not matter if the front door. But Simpson his client was acting in self-defense. Republican candidate for attorney general did not allow the jury to reCenter for Violence Prevention ExSteve Simpson was the judge in Edna Mae ceive instructions that under ecutive Director Sandy Middleton said that Sanders’ murder trial in 2008. the Castle Doctrine, Edna Mae while she could not comment specifically was not required to retreat if on the Sanders’ case, it is not uncommon Republican candidate for attorney gen- she was defending herself in the home she for domestic violence victims to react with eral Steve Simpson, whom Gov. Haley Bar- lived in. violence when they feel threatened. bour appointed to serve as Department of “You have to remember that they are in “Victims can be pushed so far back in Public Safety commissioner a month later, a house, where even by her own admission, the corner that they react violently in represided over the case. Simpson sentenced he was in the back bedroom,” Simpson said turn,” she said. “They become conditioned Edna Mae Sanders to life in prison without during a JFP interview. “All she had to do to violence because it is their way of life.” the possibility of parole after a jury found was walk out the front door. If she believed Comment at www.jfp.ms.
9:30 a.m. Sunday School for all ages 11:00 a.m. Worship Service Live Streaming at www.gallowayumc.org Televised on WAPT Children’s Church Ages 4-Kindegarten Nursery Available Ages 6 weeks-3 years
305 North Congress Street Jackson, MS 601-353-9691 English 601-362-3464 Spanish www.gallowayumc.org
COURTESY STEVE SIMPSON
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
dna Mae Sanders first met former Navy Seal Sherman Sanders at a Baton Rouge party in March 2005. She gave him her phone number, and it wasn’t long before he began surprising her with gifts and driving from New Orleans to see her on weekends. By July 2005, the couple married and settled in Baton Rouge, where Sanders commuted to his job at the Stennis Space Center. Sanders and her two children, Caleb, then 6, and Kayla, then 13, moved to Pensacola, Fla., a few months after Hurricane Katrina hit in August. The stress of the storm changed her husband, Edna Mae Sanders said during testimony at the April 2008 trial in which she was accused of killing him by dropping hot oil on him. Sanders maintained that she was acting in self-defense, claiming her husband was about to kill her. Sherman Sanders’ grandmother had gone missing during hurricane Katrina and a few months later, his mother died from cancer. Although he had never shown any previous signs of violence, he began to lose his temper and would often hit Caleb, who was autistic, Edna Mae said. “He would be like (Dr.) Jekyll and (Mr.) Hyde,” Sanders told the court. According to her court testimony, during a trip home from Walmart, Caleb began to cry, and Sherman suddenly swung the car to the side of the road and opened Edna Mae’s door, pushing her out of the car. “Get back there and do something with that g*ddamn boy with that damn hollering in my ear,” Sherman yelled. The family soon moved again to Waveland, eventually ending up in Diamondhead. By that point, Sherman wouldn’t let Edna Mae buy her own clothes or get a job.
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by Elizabeth Waibel
Students Make Gains in Math
Rachel Canter, executive director of Mississippi First, said other than the improvement in 8th-grade math scores, the NAEP results are pretty much on par with how Mississippi has performed on the tests in the past few years. “We haven’t seen really any moveFILE PHOTO
November 2 - 8, 2011
ational test scores in math and reading consistently put Mississippi below the national average, but this year’s results show students made gains in one of the areas where they typically fall farthest behind: 8thgrade math scores. Students this year scored four points higher than in 2009 and 15 points higher than in 2000. In 2009, Mississippi students were 17 points below the national average; this year they closed the gap to 14 points. The national average 8th-grade math score went up one point from 2009 and 11 points since 2000. The U.S. Department of Education released the National Assessment of Educational Progress results—sometimes referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card”— today, showing students made slight gains in most areas nationwide. The National Center for Education Statistics administers math and reading tests to a sample of about 380,000 4th and 8th graders in each subject area to test their proficiency level in those subjects. The tests grade public-school students on a scale of 0 to 500 for each grade and subject area. On a national level, students at all income levels posted the highest scores to date in both math and reading. Nationally, 4th graders scored an average of 220 in reading and 240 in math. Eighth graders scored 264 in reading and 283 in math. Mississippi scored about 10 points behind the national average in most areas, which some have estimated puts the state’s students, on average, about a grade level below their peers. The state ranks below most other states, although Mississippi students scored higher than students in the District of Columbia, which posted the lowest scores in each grade and subject level. In reading and 4th-grade math, the difference between 2009 and 2011 scores was not statistically significant, which means the difference is within the margin of error and could be due to differences in the test from one year to the next or other variables. Blake Wilson, president of the Mississippi Economic Council, told the Jackson Free Press last month that education plays a large part in determining whether children will succeed in the rest of school and enter the work force able to compete. “It just comes up consistently when you talk to business leaders—that 4th-grade testing scores are so critical,” he said. The council, along with Momentum Mississippi, recently released recommendations advising the state to improve its education system to pave the way for future economic growth.
National test scores show that Mississippi still lags behind the national average in math and reading, but is making gains in 8th-grade math scores—the area where it traditionally falls the farthest behind.
ment at all with our NAEP scores, which is pretty worrisome considering that we’re pretty far behind,” she said. The common core curriculum standards, which the state is beginning to phase in this year, should help Mississippi’s test scores to improve as its curriculum gets on par with the rest of the country, Canter said. She added a note of caution, saying “we need both significant and sizable movement on NAEP.” “[A] a change could seem large but not actually be ‘real’ in a statistical sense,” Canter said. “Conversely, a change might be significant statistically but still not be very large.” She added, “We need something to compare it to in order to know how large that change is. The new standards are part of an initiative underway in most states in the country to get students in states that perform lower academically, such as Mississippi, on the same level as states that consistently score high. Mississippi has improved in some areas over time, however. This year, Mississippi’s 4th-grade reading scores are up six points from 1998, despite a two-point decrease from 2009. The state’s students posted three-point gains in 8th-grade reading and 4th-grade math scores, but two and three-point changes are not considered statistically significant. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
The ACLU of Mississippi Is Working to Give Citizens the Right to Vote
OPP0SE VOTER ID!
Initiative 27 on the Mississippi ballot will disenfranchise many Mississippi voters by requiring government-issued identification to be shown each time we vote.
VOTER ID LAWS ARE A NATIONWIDE ATTEMPT TO LIMIT OUR VOTE: • 25% of African Americans lack government-issued identification.
You do not have to show photo identification to vote unless it is your first time voting and you registered by mail. Persons with disabilities may ask for assistance to vote. Some felony convictions do not impede your right to vote. Be cautious of rumors overheard while standing in line, as they may be designed to intimidate you. Locate your polling location and the hours before you go to vote. Review the sample ballot before you cast your vote. If you experience problems exercising your right to vote, call 1-888-354-ACLU immediately.
In Mississippi, the ACLU has been on the forefront of protecting the right to vote, especially for the poor and people of color whose right to vote historically has been the most vulnerable to suppression. www.aclu-ms.org | 601-354-3408
• 18% of all Americans aged 18 to 24 lack identification with a current address. • 15% of Americans who earn under $35,000 per year lack government-issued ID. • Older citizens who don’t drive or are in nursing homes not only lack driver’s licenses, but they lack the ability to get to the polls. • Some 21 million citizens could be shut out from voting if these laws pass nationally.
DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN IN MISSISSIPPI! PROTECT OUR RIGHT TO VOTE!
VOTE “NO” on 27! For more information, contact: MIRA Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance P.O. Box 1104, Jackson, Mississippi 39215 601-968-5182 – www.yourmira.org
Mississippi Unity Caucus
PA I D A DV E RT I S E M E N T
here’s only one place to get awardwinning gumbo outside of New Orleans. Take a trip to historic Fondren and visit a legend over 20 years in the making. Que Sera Sera was established on July 14, 1989, by Boo Noble. This Jackson landmark got its name during the construction process, where the owner was reminded by several patrons that the building had previously housed six restaurants and the chances for success were slim. Hence the name, Que Será Será Que Sera Sera, “whatever will be, will be.” As any Jacksonian will tell you, Noble hit the mark. From the time you enter, you are greeted with warm, Southern hospitality and prompt and friendly customer service. With an inviting terrace complete with a fire pit, anytime is a good time to sit outside and enjoy great live music and watch Fondren life go by. The staff at Que Sera Sera love to prepare fabulous food and offer it at a great value for their customers. All of the dressings, sauces, soups, and gumbo are made in-house from scratch. The food isn’t just fresh and tasty, but award-winning as well. Que Sera Sera has won 21 of the last 26 cooking competitions they have entered. If you live for the weekend, start it off right at Que Sera Sera with their authentic New Orleans style brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Choose from Eggs Benedict, Seafood, Creole or Crawfish Omelets, and more, all served with genuine Braubant potatoes and muffin. Need to get happy? Endless happy hours, great lunches, dinners, and amazing daily specials make Que Sera Sera a sure bet. Looking for your favorite Cajun dish? Red Beans and Rice, Crawfish or Shrimp Etouffee, and a variety of authentic Po Boys will surely please even the most particular Cajun aficionado. Maybe Cajun isn’t your thing? Give “The Works” burger, grilled chicken, or any of the freshly grilled fish or steaks a try. If you’re looking for something a little on the lighter side, one of three fresh salad options is a great place to start. Grilled redfish or salmon, the Bayou Ribeye or the Honey Glazed Pork Chop, along with daily chalkboard specials, make Que Sera Sera an easy choice for what’s for dinner. Que Sera Sera offers real Cajun specialties, fresh fish, pastas, award-winning gumbo, and so much more. Great food, Southern hospitality, and live entertainment create the perfect urban oasis for city folks looking to take a break from daily life, and experience a little bit of The Crescent City in The City with Soul.
A strong, healthy democracy must include the voices of all its citizens. In a democracy, voting is a right, now a privilege. Yet, in our democracy, more than 5 million Americans are unable to participate in this most basic, fundamental right of citizenship. Know your rights before you go to the polls on Nov. 8!
• A large proportion of U.S. citizens of Latino origin also lack government ID.
opining, grousing & pontificating
If Not Now, When?
ext Tuesday is Election Day in Mississippi. If voting trends hold true, fewer than 40 percent of those eligible to vote will actually cast ballots. It also means that progressives probably won’t see many victories over conservative candidates. Disengagement from politics is easy when no one candidate takes a progressive stance on all issues. In Mississippi, it pays to be conservative or moderately conservative. Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood is gung-ho on the death penalty, for example, and every Democrat on the ballot wants you to believe he or she supports the Personhood Initiative. If nothing else, it’s politically expedient to take such stances here. And, yet, sitting on the sidelines—and sitting out the vote—is exactly the wrong tactic to initiate a change in the system. No one has ever said challenging the status quo is easy, but if there is one thing we can count on, it is that everything can and does eventually change. How it changes is up to us. If progressive voters in Mississippi become cozy in their defeatist mantles and don’t vote, nothing will ever change politically. Because here’s the thing: Not voting is voting. Every vote not cast—out of frustration or disgust or a belief that it doesn’t matter anyway—is actually a vote for the opposition. Not voting is casting your lot for the way things already are and have always been. Democracy simply does not work without citizen participation. Lack of engagement in our political system has resulted in a Congress with the lowest approval rating in the history of congressional approval ratings: A mere 9 percent of those polled last month approve of the job Congress is doing. Almost no one in America is happy with what our politicians are up to in Washington, yet we’re the ones who put them there. In spite of what might look like impossible odds, this is exactly not the time to give up. Now is the time to seize the initiative and make things happen. First, go and vote on Tuesday. Regardless of whether you need to hold your nose to do it, participate in your democracy and make your voice heard. Second, get engaged in the process. Start by talking about issues with friends and family. While it may not be polite to discuss politics, would you rather be polite or affect change? If you’re up for a bigger role, participate in organizing for the next election, whether that’s knocking on doors or fielding new candidates. Third, tell your party what you want and expect from it. Especially if you’re young or have good, innovative ideas to share, your energy and enthusiasm can bring new vigor to a party mired in pessimism and the status quo. It’s up to all of us to do something to move politics forward. If not now, progressives, when?
Pass It On
November 2 - 8, 2011
rother Hustle: “While watching the news reports about the ‘Occupy’ movement in the cities of Oakland, Calif., Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, Ga., Aunt Tee-Tee and I recalled the late Sam Cooke’s song ‘Change Is Gonna Come.’” Then I go to my brother And I say brother help me please But he winds up knocking me Back down on my knees. “A lot of people have experienced a rude awakening this year. The nightmare of unemployment, home foreclosure, student loan debt, financial ruin and lack of necessary job skills has become an unwelcome reality to millions of people. Forty-seven years ago, a U.S. president declared a war on poverty. Today, 99 percent of the poor and middle class confront the wealthy one percent. If you’ve experience a rude awakening, Aunt Tee Tee and I want to help you through your economic and vocational perils. As associate dean of the Aunt Tee Tee Technical Institute, I invite the newly unemployed unskilled and skilled individuals to learn together at the Each One Teach One Vocational Institute. Now is the time to change the future of career and vocational education by letting the skilled train the unskilled. Your attendance at the vocational institute is a great way to acquire needed skills in computers and technology. The cost is absolutely free—as long as you pass on your acquired knowledge to another student. The Each One Teach One Vocational Institute is part of the Hair Did 12 University School of Cosmetology Continuing Education Program.
by Funmi F. Franklin, aka Queen
It’s About Women’s Rights
find it laughable that the state of Mississippi is even considering asking us to vote yes on Initiative 26. Really? We are being asked to make a law to give up our constitutional right to choice. Really. It’s obvious to me that the intent is to monitor and control abortion. But whether intended or not, the initiative only serves one true purpose and that is to strip women in this state of the right to choose what happens with our uteruses. How dare any person, specifically any man, tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies? We live in a society where we are free to choose any religion we want, and we have an abundance of diverse beliefs here. So, how can it even be fathomable that one blanket statement can speak for all women? That, in and of itself, would take an unimaginable feat. When does a person actually become a person? Seriously, is this the question that we now face? Our vast differences will never allow us to come to one conclusion that answers this question for everyone; the mere fact that abortion is so controversial tells us that. But even if we could, what gives the government the right to make this decision for us? Every woman has the individual right to make that decision for herself. Each of us has different experiences that shape our thoughts on the matter, and we have the right to make decisions based on those experiences. Regardless of whether you agree with my decisions, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have the right to make them. Could it be that those who support this ridiculous notion have not found themselves in a situation where they had to make a choice? Are the consequences of taking choice away shielded behind the ever-popular Bible-belt rhetoric? Beyond that, I find it highly offensive that
humans who do not have female parts heavily support this initiative. Men are evaluating our rights—men who will never have to carry a baby, never have to recover mentally from having to make a decision such as this and who, even in their wildest imagination, will never know the agony a woman goes through when she finds herself in a situation where she has to consider ending a pregnancy for whatever reason. This isn’t about when a person becomes a person. This isn’t even about abortion. This is about women’s rights. This is about us having to fight to keep our voice. This is about our right to choose what happens with our own bodies. This is about standing up and saying: “No! No sir, you will not choose for me. No mister, you will not rob me of my right to decide. You will not pick and choose what happens to my body. This is my choice, not yours, not my husband’s, not my baby daddy’s. This choice is mine and only mine.” On Nov. 8, we must storm the polls and make our voices heard. Know this: We are headed for a voiceless future if we can’t be valued enough to make a decision now. If we let this slide, what happens to our future? If we don’t vote against this, we may be sending the message that we don’t value our right to vote, either. One day, we may be faced with loosing the right to work or advocate. Or we might have to vote on how many children we can have or what classes of women can bear children at all. Do you think this is outlandish? Then you get the point about how ridiculous this “personhood” initiative is in the first place. Save your voice. We have much to scream about, and this is just the beginning.
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Danger Looming Large EDITORIAL Managing Editor Ronni Mott News Editor Lacey McLaughlin Assistant Editor Valerie Wells Reporters R.L. Nave, Elizabeth Waibel Events Editor Latasha Willis Editorial Assistant LaShanda Phillips Deputy Editor Briana Robinson Copy Editor Dustin Cardon Music Listings Editor Natalie Long Fashion Stylist Meredith Sullivan Writers Torsheta Bowen, Quita Bride, Marika Cackett, Scott Dennis, Bryan Flynn, Brandi Herrera, Diandra Hosey, Pamela Hosey, Robyn Jackson, Garrad Lee, Natalie Long, Larry Morrisey, Robin Oâ€™Bryant,Tom Ramsey, Julie Skipper, Ken Stiggers, Rebecca Wright Editorial Interns Brittany Kilgore, Sadaaf Mamoon, Hannah Vick Consulting Editor JoAnne Prichard Morris
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Jackson Free Press P.O. Box 5067, Jackson, Miss., 39296 Editorial (601) 362-6121 Sales (601) 362-6121 Fax (601) 510-9019 Daily updates at jacksonfreepress.com The Jackson Free Press is the cityâ€™s award-winning, locally owned newsweekly, with 17,000 copies distributed in and around the Jackson metropolitan area every Wednesday. The Jackson Free Press is free for pick-up by readers; one copy per person, please. Firstclass subscriptions are available for $100 per year for postage and handling. The Jackson Free Press welcomes thoughtful opinions. The views expressed in this newspaper are not necessarily those of the publisher or management of Jackson Free Press Inc. ÂŠ Copyright 2011 Jackson Free Press Inc. All Rights Reserved
was 22 the first time I learned the pain that bearing a child can bring. The pain wasnâ€™t mine, but witnessing the trauma first hand, I was affected. The child was stillborn, but the mother was able to hold an impossibly small onepound baby before it was whisked away for an autopsy. Ultrasound images came to occupy my dreamsâ€”the bones of tiny feet and hands and faces that would never walk or throw a ball or smile. At 28, I learned I was pregnant for the first time. My husband and I had only recently decided to forgo birth control, so the quickness with which we became pregnant was a relief. A few weeks later, we anxiously awaited having a sonogram. My only other experience with this machine had left me scarred, and I clasped my husbandâ€™s hand, afraid to look anywhere other than his face. When the doctor happily pointed to a tiny heart, ferociously beating, my fears were allayed. Several weeks later, I was again in a sonogram room, this time in the emergency room. My eyes, already tear-filled, could not look away from the wobbly screen, hoping to see what wasnâ€™t there. I went immediately to surgery to remove the pregnancy material that just hours before was my baby-to-be. Later, the doctor quietly explained, â€œSometimes hearts just stop beating.â€? To my knowledge, no death certificate was issued. No autopsy was ordered, as there was no baby upon which to complete the task. No law enforcement agencies were notified. No funeral planned. I was 29 when I learned I was pregnant again. Given the recent miscarriage, my doctor suggested an early ultrasound. My husband and I again held hands, and when the doctor said, â€œI donâ€™t think it took this time,â€? we clung tighter to one another. The second pregnancy resulted in a blighted ovum, which means my uterus absorbed the fertilized egg after implantation. The gestational sac was empty. Again, I was taken to surgery. Again: no autopsy, no death certificate, no police involvement, no funeral. I now have a healthy little girl. But the grief has not disappeared. The possibilities we lost will always haunt me. And therein lies the crux of my anger toward the Personhood Initiative: We lost the possibility of children; we did not lose children. While my grief is profound, it is not the grief of the woman who cradled her child and kissed breathless lips. She lost a child. A
fertilized egg that can be reabsorbed by the motherâ€™s body is not a person. Before implantation, the cluster of cells is comprised of two layers: The outer layer will become the placenta, and the inner the embryo. The embryoâ€™s heart does not begin to form until three weeks after conception, and itâ€™s not until the fourth week that the heart begins to function with a regular beat. And as I know all too well, even as late as 11 weeks into a pregnancy, nothing salvageable exists. One windy night, my daughter woke up, afraid that the Big Bad Wolf was trying to blow our house down. We held her close, explaining that the Big Bad Wolf was only make-believe. Unconvinced, she grabbed my husbandâ€™s cheeks, stared into his eyes and said, â€œBut if he comes, Mommy and Daddy will scare him away.â€? Amazed by her simplistic but infallible logic, we answered honestly. â€œYes. Mommy and Daddy will always protect you.â€? The Big Bad Wolf may exist only in fairy tales, but a very real danger is looming large. As I promised her, I have to protect my daughter. Personhood Mississippi exists for the sole purposeâ€”or so it claimsâ€”of protecting life and the rights of all living humans. That claim is false. What the writers of the initiative actually seek is to destroy rights and force women into the subservient role we occupied for far too long. Their claim defies the boundaries of logic: You cannot at once proclaim that all humans are entitled to rights while infringing on the rights of half the population. If the women who support this initiative elect to forfeit their ability to make decisions with their family, their doctors and their belief system, it is not my place to stop them. I, however, am not giving away my rights, or those of my daughter. And I will fight anyone who tries to take them from us. I implore other parents who lovingly tell their daughters that they can be and do anything they want to stand up and fight with me, because the Personhood Initiative will remove the promising future our daughters now enjoy. JFP Marketing and Events Coordinator Shannon Barbour sometimes answers to the name Events Girl. She enjoys the chaos of the JFP as it reminds her of home, which she shares with her husband and their amazing little girl.
We lost the possibility of children; we did not lose children.
CORRECTION: In â€œFarish: Must â€˜Make a Profitâ€™â€? (Vol. 10, Issue 7, Oct. 26, 2011) reporter Lacey McLaughlin incorrectly stated that tenants will pay $8 to $12 per square for rent each month. Tenants will pay $8 to $12 per square foot for rent per year. The Jackson Free Press apologizes for the error.
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Editor in Chief Donna Ladd Publisher Todd Stauffer
The JFP 2011 Election Coverage Issue
Personhood: A Pandora’s Box The Complicated Truth About Initiative 26 by Valerie Wells
November 2 - 8, 2011
Does Nothing for Children The Personhood Initiative is short: “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?” That is how voters will read it on the ballot. The secretary of state’s website explains that if passed, the initiative would amend the Mississippi Constitution.
tlee Breland picked her three young children up from preschool and drove home to Brandon. A self-employed computer programmer, Breland is able to adjust her day around her children. Her husband, Greg Breland, came home later in the afternoon, and the family sat down and ate dinner together. After she bathed the kids and put them to bed, Breland read yet another comment online about the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Personhood Initiative on the November ballot. It angered her. As a mother because of in-vitro therapy, she was frustrated that people didn’t understand the initiative, which would legally redefine the word “person” to include fertilized eggs and could affect many families negatively. Breland was confused why somebody had yet to do something about it. “I’m going to stop it,” she told her husband. At 9 p.m. that Friday, just a little more than one month ago, she began the website parentsagainstms26.com. She started a political action committee and gave speeches, sometimes spending six hours a day in her car. She picks up and distributes yard signs, and she drives to Oxford and Biloxi to address rallies and brainstorm with other activists. “It turns out I know a whole lot of people,” Breland said. The mother calls herself an unlikely activist. An attractive, thin blond with a sweet voice and pleasant smile, Breland is not a poor or disadvantaged woman—in-vitro fertilization therapy is expensive. Protesting is not something she ever thought she would do. Part of her message is to erase the stigma people attach to infertility. “I was an infertility patient. It doesn’t go away; it doesn’t end,” Breland said. “Infertility is more common than breast cancer. Everyone wears pink ribbons for breast cancer. Infertility is not shameful. It’s a disease, and I got medical treatment. My husband had kidney cancer and got surgery.” She tells anyone who will listen that the Yes on 26 supporters are not telling the whole story. The 21 words in the ballot initiative leave too much room for judges and legislators to make choices about what happens in women’s wombs. Breland doesn’t trust them: “Mississippi can’t draw up voting districts without federal government oversight. How are we go14 ing to trust it to oversee medical treatment?”
Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof? “There are so many things we don’t know about this initiative,” Olga Osby told a packed amphitheater at Jackson State University at a town-hall meeting Oct. 12. The social-work professor looked up at students—most of them young women—and some visitors to the JSU campus. She went through a long list of things the initiative leaves unclear. • It makes no exceptions in cases of rape
or incest, or for the life of the mother. • It could potentially outlaw in-vitro fertilization and birth control. • It could create criminal investigations into miscarriages. • It could affect congressional districts for voting or other population equations. Osby spoke about the unintended consequences of the simple wording, a common theme of Initiative 26 opponents. “Mississippi is the only state with a personhood measure on the ballot this year,” Osby said. “Similar propositions are planned in Florida, Montana and Ohio. Colorado faced it twice; both times, it died.” Osby, who is black, showed the crowd a picture of billboard depicting a young, black girl. The billboard read, “The most dangerous place for an African American is the womb.” “The pro-life movement has started linking race to the issue of abortion,” Osby said. “I take it personally. We need to be careful. Race should not come into this. It’s dangerous living in Mississippi.” She gave the crowd some specific statistics why: Mississippi is 50th in infant mortality. In Mississippi, a child is abused or neglected every 60 minutes, a child dies before her first birthday every 19 hours, and a child dies from gunfire once a week. One in five Mississippi children lives in poverty. “Mississippi leads the nation in every negative health indication. We are 50th in quality of life for women,” Osby said. “We are all pro-life. Mississippi has a great deal to do to care for children.” Osby suggested that improving life for all Mississippi residents will lower the number of women who are forced to face difficult decisions about pregnancy. “26 does nothing to improve lives of children.” 20 Percent Survive Dr. Randall Hines, a fertilization specialist who practices in Flowood, treated Atlee Breland’s infertility. He also spoke at the JSU town-hall meeting. “In America and in most democratic countries, we train people in health care,” he said. “Those people invest time, money and energy in their training.” That’s exactly why people seek out trained health-care providers, he said, so that all the best options are on the table. Hines said Initiative 26 would interfere. “We will bring the government into the clinic and into the bedroom. When was the
last time anybody here went to the Capitol for medical advice?” he asked the crowd. State legislators and attorneys would interpret what the proposed amendment means, not trained doctors. Hines gave the example of a fertilized egg that, instead of implanting itself in the wall of womb, gets stuck in the fallopian tube. That type of ectopic pregnancy would be called a “person” if this measure passes, even though that “person” would never be born. “It cannot and will not result in the life of a child,” Hines said. “It can rupture and kill the woman.” He described a scenario of 30 days after the election, sometime in mid-December, where a woman suffering an ectopic pregnancy comes to an emergency room in pain. If Mississippi voters vote for Personhood, ER doctors might not be able to help her—legally. “When I go to an operating room and operate to save that woman, I’m committing homicide,” Hines said. “Approximately 20 percent of fertilized eggs result in children,” Hines added. “Most fertilized eggs do not become children. All fertilized eggs are not equal.” The proposed amendment would damage the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. “It’s a radical departure to the way we have become accustomed to practicing medicine,” Hines said. “We want to make decisions based on science, based on experience, based on published studies.” Hines said the amendment would affect the legality and accessibility of birth control. He said it’s quite possible that Plan B, a morning-after emergency contraceptive, would be declared illegal. It’s also highly likely that intrauterine devices, from the old copper ones still placed inside some women to the newer, popular Mirena devices, would be illegal because they all prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the uterus. Even some birth-control pills might be considered a threat to a fertilized egg. “So many medicines have so many mechanisms. It’s really complicated,” Hines said. “I’m worried about all of it. Birth control can affect implantation. It’s difficult science. I don’t think law is the place to sort that out.” Several health-profession organizations are opposed to Initiative 26, including the Mississippi State Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
The JFP 2011 Election Coverage Issue / Personhood
Atlee Breland is a mother of three because of in-vitro fertilization therapy. She is against 26.
Maybe, Baby Bear Atwood, a lawyer with ACLU Mississippi, says a personhood amendment would force doctors to practice law. â€œCould this happen? Could miscarriage be investigated as homicide?â€? Atwood asked the crowd at the JSU town hall meeting. â€œMaybe.â€? Atwood said that is the answer to almost every question the vague Initiative 26 brings to mind. Will it outlaw birth control? Will it put oppressive controls on womenâ€™s activities? Will it drive doctors away from Mississippi? Maybe. â€œ(The word) person is 9,000 times in state law,â€? Atwood said. â€œNext year, our Legislature could have to address statutory provisions.â€? The trend is to charge women who have miscarriages with homicide, she said, citing a Florida example. Redefining the word â€œpersonâ€? to include a fertilized egg would encourage prosecutors and politicians who already want to criminalize some miscarriages. â€œWe are the fattest state,â€? Atwood said. â€œIf a pregnant woman eats at McDonaldâ€™s, can she be accused of child abuse? How about the woman who stays in a violent relationship?â€? Maybe. â€œThere is a drive to unfund Planned Parenthood and make birth control difficult to obtain,â€? she said. â€œDo we really want to ask young men and women to sneak across the border to get birth control?â€? Supporters of the Personhood Initiative are purposefully downplaying its language, Atwood said. â€œDonâ€™t worry about it, the Legislature will work on it, they say. â€œI want the Legislature to work on jobs and the economy. I donâ€™t want them interpreting a measure so broad and so vague, you canâ€™t understand it,â€? Atwood said. â€œChaos is never good for women.â€? Heaven and Hell The Rev. Mark Anthony Williamson, pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, spoke briefly at the JSU town hall meeting. He said he was pro-life and offered four points from a Christian perspective, points he said
most Christians would agree on. â€œOne: God gives life. Two: It is God that removes life. Three: God forgives. Four: God allows choices.â€? He had to wait a few seconds until the cheers and amens quieted down. â€œThis amendment has wording in it that doesnâ€™t allow changes,â€? he said before sitting down again. Heâ€™s not the only spiritual leader against Initiative 26. Others include the Rev. Hope Morgan Ward, bishop of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Duncan M. Gray III, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. Michelle Colon doesnâ€™t represent a church, but she is as blunt as a preacher at a revival. â€œIâ€™m traveling the state every freaking weekend because people donâ€™t know what this initiative is about,â€? she said. She wishes more people were upfront and loud about the intentions of the personhood supporters. â€œThis law is designed to ban abortion. In their eyes, birth control is abortion,â€? she told the JSU town-hall meeting. â€œDonâ€™t get it twisted.â€? Colon told the JSU crowd that the supporters of Initiative 26 refer to women as whores and murderers. â€œI damn sure donâ€™t want other voters in Mississippi making that decision for me. I was so ticked off nothing was being done, I started my own group, Hell No! on 26 and 27,â€? she said. (Initiative 27 would require voter identification at polls.) Personal Economics Attendees at the JSU town-hall meeting wrote questions on index cards for the panel to answer. Most of the questions were practical economic concerns. Would a Personhood amendment mean that a father would have to start paying child support sooner? â€œMaybe,â€? Bear Atwood said. The farreaching implications could affect inheritance laws, also. Atwood said even donating sperm would have ramifications. Citizenship would also require redefining. The questions kept coming. Would you have to get a Social Security number for your
Citizen Carcinoma Dr. Paul Seago finds it absurd that if Initiative 26 passes this November, a carcinoma could have the same rights as his teenage daughter. Seago, who practices gynecologic oncology in Jackson, spoke at a news conference Oct. 7 at the Capitol. He and Hines, the infertility physician who treated Atlee Breland, represented the group Mississippi Doctors Against 26. They called Initiative 26 a law of unintended consequences. â€œWhether intended or not, we as doctors will have to deal with these consequences,â€? Seago said. â€œThis initiative is bad for the practice of medicine, bad for womenâ€™s health and bad for Mississippi families.â€? Seago said that the measure could eliminate common birth-control options, including the pill and IUDs. Supporters of the measure have said otherwise, suggesting an emotional overreaction from their political opponents. The doctors said identifying the moment of fertilization is not so simple. â€œWe have no test to know exactly when this happens,â€? Seago said. â€œWe also know that more than 40 percent of the time, the fertilized egg will fail to develop past this early stage even in optimal circumstances.â€? If the initiative passes, women and families would face drastic consequences, the doctors said. Hines said in-vitro options for infertile couples could be illegal. â€œMississippians face some of the worst health outcomes in the nation,â€? Hines said. â€œHealth-care teams with best practices should decide what is best, not politicians and lawyers.â€? He again gave the example of a pregnancy occurring in the fallopian tubes, an ectopic pregnancy. Initiative 26, if passed, could protect these fertilized eggs outside the uterus that endanger the life of the mother. â€œMost people know somebody who has had an ectopic pregnancy,â€? Hines said. â€œ(Personhood is) one of the most intrusive ways government can intrude in health care. You donâ€™t want your doctor worried about the law.â€? Seago said he worries that if Initiative 26 passes in November, it might take effect 30 days later. He described a scenario of a woman with an ectopic pregnancy walking into an emergency room Dec. 15. â€œWhat happens that night?â€? If Personhood became law, malpractice premiums would rise for Mississippi doctors because doctors could face criminal charges for providing the best care for individual patients, Hines argued. Hines brought up other concerns, such as the legal trouble a pregnant mother drinking coffee might face.
PERSONHOOD, see page 16
On the Ballot by Dustin Cardon
ere are the candidates youâ€™ll see on your Nov. 8 ballot. Everyone in Mississippi will see the statewide offices. Voters in Hinds County will also see their appropriate state Senate, House of Representative, commissioner and other county races. An asterisk after a candidateâ€™s name indicates a recent Jackson Free Press interview or profile available at jfppolitics.com. JFP Endorsements have Â” next to the names; read more on page 4. 3TATEWIDE /FÂ˝CES 'OVERNOR Â‡3KLO%U\DQW5 Â‡-RKQQ\/'X3UHH' ÂĽ ,IEUTENANT 'OVERNOR Â‡7DWH5HHYHV5 Â‡7UDFHOOD/RX2Âś+DUD+LOO5HIRUP 3ECRETARY OF 3TATE Â‡'HOEHUW+RVHPDQQ5 !TTORNEY 'ENERAL Â‡-LP+RRG' ÂĽ Â‡6WHYH6LPSVRQ5 3TATE !UDITOR Â‡6WDFH\(3LFNHULQJ5 Â‡$VKOH\1RUZRRG5HIRUP 3TATE 4REASURER Â‡/\QQ)LWFK5 Â‡&RQQLH0RUDQ' ÂĽ Â‡6KDZQ2Âś+DUD5HIRUP #OMMISSIONER OF !GRICULTURE #OMMERCE Â‡-RHO*LOO' Â‡&LQG\+\GH6PLWK5 Â‡&DWK\/7RROH5HIRUP #OMMISSIONER OF )NSURANCE Â‡0LNH&KDQH\5ÂĽ Â‡/RXLV)RQGUHQ' Â‡%DUEDUD'DOH:DVKHU5HIRUP
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more, see page 16
fertilized egg? Could you count your egg as a deduction on your tax return? â€œNow we get the IRS involved,â€? Atwood said. â€œYou guys want to bring the IRS in your bedroom?â€? Atwood said thereâ€™s a reason why church and state for centuries have used one simple moment in time to define personhood. â€œBirth is a concrete moment,â€? she said. â€œThey can put a time on it. They can put a place on it.â€?
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November 2 - 8, 2011
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more, see page 18
Atlee Breland plays with her son, Andrew, 3.
Seago said his 15-year-old daughter was shocked when another doctor explained to her the ballot initiative had no exclusion for rape or incest. â€œYou should have seen her eyes,â€? he said. A Civil Affair The 200 or so people who came Oct. 25 to hear an expert panel discuss Initiative 26 at Mississippi College played by the rules. It was clear from the beginning that college officials werenâ€™t going to tolerate a shouting match or a tossing of insults. The audience wasnâ€™t going to get to ask questions, either. Some who came to listen wore large red-andwhite â€œYes on 26â€? stickers. Some brought kids. No one yelled or made a scene. A few stifled coughs and whispers erupted at some points in the complicated symposium. For the most part, it was a civil affair. Jonathan Will, an assistant professor and head
of MCâ€™s Bioethics and Health Law Center, moderated the symposium, â€œExploring the Implications of Mississippiâ€™s Personhood Initiative.â€? At the start, he stressed the discussion would be objective and informative although about emotional issues. To set the tone of the discussion, an embryologist explained the basic physiology of fertilization. Dr. Michael Tucker, who is an in-vitro fertilization pioneer and top expert, showed pictures of an incubator, a cell freezer and cryo tanks. He said 450 infertility clinics operate now in the United States. â€œOur business is to bring two gametes together,â€? he said. Of the 100 to 200 million sperm released, only 1 to 100 wind up in the fallopian tube. In-vitro fertilization doctors select the best quality sperm for the oocyte, or egg cell. He showed a short video clip of a glass micro needle poking an egg to place a single sperm in its cytoplasm. He called this the beginning of the initialization affect. The first day, the zygote forms. The second day, it becomes a four-cell entity. On the third day, it grows to eight cells and is only about 120 microns wide. Thatâ€™s one-tenth of a millimeter, just less than the width of a strand of hair. Day four and five, the eight-cell entity becomes a morula. Then, sometime between the fifth and seventh day, the morula becomes the blastocyst. â€œWe treat these microscopic entities with respect,â€? Tucker said. â€œFor the first three days, the egg is running on its own maternal quest.â€? He said the sperm doesnâ€™t do much except be there during these early stages. â€œThe fertilization event is extremely extensive. Itâ€™s not a simple discrete moment in time,â€? he said. It takes 38 hours for the four-cell entity to emerge. Itâ€™s 50 hours of development before the sperm has any involvement. At 70 hours of development, the entity blossoms into segments like a soccer ball. On the fifth, sixth and seventh days, the inner cell mass starts to form. â€œEverything before this is pre-em-
bryo,â€? Tucker said. â€œItâ€™s difficult to conceive of that entity as an individual.â€? Blastocysts select themselves out, meaning that most of them will not develop any further: 65 percent of fertilized eggs in nature donâ€™t make babies, and 50 percent of pre-embryos are chromosomally abnormal, Tucker said. â€œThe biology of reproduction can be messy and ineffective.â€? Keep it Simple Stephen Crampton, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel for Liberty Counsel, a national nonprofit policy group that opposes abortion rights, told a joke before making his case at the Oct. 25 Mississippi College symposium. â€œThereâ€™s a reason we call it practicing law. We never quite get it right,â€? Crampton said. Crampton said the use of terms is significant. â€œDefinitions set the stage and set the tone,â€? he said. Others had coined the term â€œpre-embryoâ€? to reduce the status of an unborn child, he gave as one example. He had another one. â€œâ€˜Reproductive Rightsâ€™ is a loaded euphemism.â€? But to him, â€œpersonhoodâ€? is simple. â€œPersonhood is nothing more than to return to a principle foundation stone,â€? he said. â€œThere is a moment male and female chromosomes come together.â€? Crampton said personhood is a first-principle idea that does not address reproductive rights or would change any other laws. â€œIt would not automatically outlaw abortion,â€? he said. Glenn Cohen, assistant professor of law at Harvard Law School, jumped in via Skype on a large screen near the panel of experts. â€œIâ€™m going to call a spade a spade here,â€? Cohen interjected. â€œYou really think it will have nothing to do with abortion?â€? Will then took the opportunity to ask another expert on the panel what might be the legal implica-
Churches and Campaigns by Elizabeth Waibel
he Internal Revenue Service categorizes churches as nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations. It regulates how nonprofits can be involved in political campaigns and still maintain their tax-exempt status. Nonprofit organizations, including churches, may not directly or indirectly campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate. This includes endorsing candidates, donating to their campaigns, fundraising or encouraging people to vote for or against a particular candidate on the basis of nonpartisan criteria. Churches and other religious organizations may encourage members to vote, distribute voter guides or conduct voter registration drives as long as these activities do not show preference for a particular candidate. They may also sponsor debates or forums as long as they provide an equal opportunity to all candidates seeking the same office and they do not indicate support for any candidate or allow political fundraising. The IRS rules against political campaigning only apply to the tax-exempt organizations themselves, not individuals, including pastors
or other religious leaders. Individuals may campaign as much as they like, so long as they do not represent their views as those of their church or organization, and they do not make partisan COURTESY YES ON 26
Candidates, from page 15
The JFP 2011 Election Coverage Issue / Personhood, from page 15
The Yes on 26 campaignâ€™s website offers downloadable fliers and suggestions for churches to get their members involved in the campaign.
comments in official organization publications or at official organization functions. Religious organizations may encourage people to vote for or against ballot initiatives,
however, since the IRS considers this lobbying instead of participating in a political campaign. They may also lobby for or against legislation by urging people to contact their legislators to support or oppose bills, resolutions or confirmations. Organizations may keep their nonprofit status so long as lobbying does not make up a â€œsubstantial part of its activities.â€? Despite the many rules and caveats about churchesâ€™ involvement in politics, very few religious organizations have faced legal action because of their political actions. The IRS wrote in a 2008 letter to political parties when an organization violates its rules regarding political campaigning, it usually issues a warning, and has proposed revoking tax-exempt status in â€œonly a few egregious cases.â€? The conservative organization Liberty Counsel says on the Yes on 26 website that the IRS has never revoked a churchâ€™s tax-exempt status for campaigning or lobbying. For more details on the IRS rules governing religious organizationsâ€™ involvement in the political process, visit irs.gov/charities/churches.
Is one of these an image of a person?
At Least Six “Whether you are for or against it, this is a bad amendment. It is ambiguous,” Cohen said via Skype. “Fertilization could mean six things. You are asking the courts to decide. You want to be clear what you are doing.” Kiessling argued that the proposed amendment is framework only. Borgmann
and Cohen countered that the language is too ambiguous even for that. Fertilization, as Tucker explained it, is a week-long process that doesn’t happen in a single moment as an egg grows from zygote to blastocyst. “Which of the six things is it?” Cohen asked. “These are scientific definitions.” Kiessling said even the process itself had a beginning. “It happens at the moment of penetration,” she said. “You are opening up a Pandora’s box,” Tucker told her. “We have no control over what courts do,” Crampton said. He repeated the idea that a personhood amendment is laying a foundation stone. He added a bit of religion. “To deny life is there is calling upon us the wrath of God,” he said. Will, an effective moderator, turned the panel to the observation that if passed, the personhood amendment would not be selfexecuting—it does not mandate any action. “A principle is non-self-executing,” he said. Mississippi has an existing statutory framework. The state Supreme Court could read the new amendment as applying to the entire code. If that happened, Will said it could possibly lead to the state closing IVF clinics. “Not all Mississippi law has to show intent,” Will said. “That is fear mongering,” Kiessling responded. Some in the audience mumbled. Be Prepared Borgmann returned to the logic and the semantics of the initiative’s wording. If you
tions if the initiative passed. Rebecca Kiessling, a family-law attorney based in Rochester, Mich., who identifies herself as conceived in rape, offered possible scenarios. “The attorney general could announce he will begin enforcing homicide statutes. Then there would be a lawsuit in federal court, then an injunction,” Kiessling said. “Or local prosecutors would announce they plan to enforce homicide laws. There would be a lawsuit, then an injunction.” Kiessling suggested all parties would have to wait out the courts as the Personhood Initiative went through the legal system. Caitlin Borgmann, a professor at City University of New York School of Law, challenged Kiessling and Crampton on their defense of Personhood. “I agree words are important,” she said. “If you support this … wouldn’t you have to oppose all abortions?” She talked about the many kinds of birth control and in-vitro fertilization methods that, if Crampton and Kiessling took wording seriously, should also be outlawed. “Can you imprison a pregnant woman? Can you imprison the child she is carrying?” she asked in a calm professorial tone.
think fertilized eggs are persons, and if you “With legislative hearings, people would have also don’t want a woman to abuse a child, she input in the process. This is framework, not posed that you would also want to prevent a legislation.” She then compared the Personpregnant woman from drinking and should hood Initiative to the 14th Amendment in the promote the prosecution of pregnant women U.S. Bill of Rights, which granted citizenship who act irresponsibly. Borgmann said you and the rights of citizens to newly freed slaves. would also believe fertilization clinics should “If your view really is the Legislature is be closed since they can discard embryos. the right place to do it, it’s ironic,” Cohen said. “Discarding is wrong,” Kiessling inter- “I don’t understand why you are arguing. … jected. Renee Whitley, who had been silent, Why not do all this through legislation?” spoke up at that point. Whitley is volunteer Crampton said it was because a Missisco-chairwoman of the national advocacy com- sippi citizen initiated a petition. mittee for RESOLVE: the National Infertility “If we are taking a position about human Association, a non-profit organization. She’s life, we ought to be consistent,” Will said. “Is also a mother because of IVF therapy. the legislation consistent?” “IVF patients, they are you and me, your “Why would you set yourself up?” neighbor, your daughter. It’s one in seven cou- Tucker said, looking at Kiessling. Under the ples,” Whitley said. “It’s been 30 years since proposed amendment, a one-cell zygote is a the first IVF cycle in Mississippi.” person, when it could become one or two or She reiterated what others had already three entities, the doctor said, explaining twins said: the proposed amendment is not self-ex- and triplets. “It shows a lack of appreciation ecuting and will need regulating legislation. for the continuum of growth,” he said. Crampton said a personhood amend“Splitting is a physical, mechanical act ment is not inherently inconsistent with legal that has nothing do with genetics. The idea IVF therapy, and implying so is fear monger- that genetics is destiny is horrific.” ing. Mississippi law already protects the un“If an embryo becomes two persons, who born child from intenwas it?” Cohen asked. tional injuries, he said, “Sue or Sally? Who citing statute 97-3-37 was the person?” He (Homicide; killing of said legal complicaan unborn child). tions would follow. “That statute “When you look wouldn’t apply any at the scientific side more,” Amelia Mcof reproduction, you Gowan of ACLU realize there is nothMississippi said. Being simple about cause the amendment it,” Whitley said. Randall Hines, left, and Dr. Paul Seago would view a fertil- Dr. “Is freezing allowed? oppose Initiative 26. ized egg with the same What about embryos rights of a person, the that develop (ablaw would no longer apply. Earlier, she point- normally) in a dish?” She wondered if police ed out that the word “person” shows up 9,000 would investigate doctors for manslaughter in times in Mississippi law. such cases. Doctors in the state could face liability in “Do you need passports for embryos?” numerous situations involving the presence of Tucker asked. Personhood is clearly a wedge a potential fertilized egg, she warned. issue, he said, that will tie up the Legislature “Do we want to interfere in doctor-pa- and cost a lot of resources. tient relationships?” McGowan asked. Tucker paused and looked at the audiKiessling didn’t think letting the Legis- ence, as if he were looking for someone to lature figure out an enforcement code for the make eye contact. amendment was a bad idea. “The legislative “Is this state prepared?” process is more in tune to people,” she said. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
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The JFP 2011 Election Coverage Issue / Personhood
Inside Yes on 26
Candidates, from page 16
by Lacey McLaughlin
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witt likes to compare his movement to the civil-rights struggle by using the message that abortions equate to â€œblack genocideâ€? for the African American community. â€œThis issue is offering a real point of catharsis on civil rights,â€? he said. â€œWe have whites and blacks standing together talking about the unborn.â€?
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No Fetus Photos Prewitt, who once worked as an aide for Sen. Thad Cochran, doesnâ€™t believe showing pictures of abortion procedures or fetuses with missing limbs is the Les Riley led efforts to collect more than 130,000 signatures way to convince voters that abortion is for the state to place initiative 26 on the Nov. 8 ballot. wrong. Instead he calls Yes on 26 a â€œlifeaffirming campaign.â€? es on 26 Campaign Director Brad Prewitt is â€œA lot of women have had abortions, an unassuming man. The 36-year-old with and we donâ€™t want to be insensitive to those womboyish features looked a bit uncomfortable en. We donâ€™t want to throw them into psychological wearing a suit and tie during the campaignâ€™s depression. We want to show grace to people. The â€œFestival of Lifeâ€? at New Horizon Church in Jack- grace that you have been shown, you have to show son Sept. 28. to others,â€? he said in September. Although he is a proponent of ending aborA woman who has had an abortion may have tions in Mississippi and beyond, Prewitt is tasked disagreed with Prewittâ€™s sensitivity at the â€œFestival with setting himself apart from his predecessor, Les of Life.â€? The event steered clear of discussing uninRiley, who led efforts to obtain more than 130,000 tended consequences the initiative may cause such signatures to put a measure on the Mississippi ballot as outlawing birth control or in-vitro fertilization. to redefine the word person in the state ConstituThe festival started with a screening of â€œMaafa tion. Riley, a trailer salesman from Pontotoc, found- 21: Black Genocide in 21st Century America,â€? a ed Personhood Mississippi, part of a larger national documentary comparing abortion to eugenicsâ€”a movement called Personhood U.S.A. He is contro- movement to â€œimproveâ€? the human race with versial as a former member of the neo-Confederate forced sterilizationâ€”as an attempt to eliminate the League of the South and as the current head of the black race. It showed photos of Germanyâ€™s Adolf stateâ€™s secessionist Constitution Party. He also pro- Hitler and his attempts to eliminate all races other moted a â€œConceived in Rape Tour.â€? than the Aryan â€œmasterâ€? race as well as photos of the Now Prewitt, of Tupelo, is trying to gain sup- Ku Klux Klan. Abortion, the documentary states, is port from black congregations to amend the state a tactic to wipe out the black population. Constitution to redefine â€œpersonâ€? to include any Later that night, the festival held a 30-minâ€œhuman being from the moment of fertilization, ute worship session before bringing on a series of cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.â€? speakers who called for support of the Personhood Most days, Prewitt, who is white, works at Initiative. They included 36-year-old Lorenzo Neal, his campaign office in Tupelo, where a poster of a pastor at New Bethlehem A.M.E. in Jackson; Mississippi blues legend Robert Johnson hangs civil-rights veteran John Perkins, founder of the on his wall. But lately he has been taking trips to John Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation; Joseph Jackson and other areas of the state trying to gain Parker of the American Family Association; camvotes from black churches and communities. Pre- paign organizer Stacia Hunter, who was conceived
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November 2 - 8, 2011
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in rape; and Dr. Freda Bush of East Lakeland OBGYN, who used to work in an abortion clinic but is now a fierce opponent of abortion. The event included a barrage of music videos and film clips. Up first was a music video of rapper Nick Cannonâ€™s â€œCan I Live.â€? It showed a pregnant woman at an abortion clinic walking through throngs of screaming protesters on the way to the clinic. She appeared riddled with guilt and fear as she decided if she should abort her child. As doctors prepared her for surgery, a full-size baby appeared on a sonogram monitor, and the woman ran out of the clinic before the procedure could take place. Another video showcased the views of opponents who spoke at a public hearing about the initiativeâ€”categorized as godless individuals who do not respect the sanctity of life. Parker declared with certainty that all women regret their abortions, even though studies show that the majority of women who receive abortions say they feel relief afterward, the Guttmacher Institute reported in 2006 in â€œAbortion in Womenâ€™s Lives.â€? â€œI have never run into a woman who says, you know, Iâ€™m glad I had that abortion,â€? Parker said. â€œBut I can point you to hundreds of women who are dealing with depression, nightmares and hear babies in the night.â€? Andrew Overton and his wife, Gladys, a mixed-race couple, thought they were attending a regular Wednesday night church service Sept. 28 and were surprised to find that it was a political event. They decided to leave after a few minutes of listening to the speakers. The couple said they are both against abortion but have concerns about the Personhood Initiative. They have questions about what it would mean for couples trying to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization. â€œItâ€™s kind of the right idea, but itâ€™s the wrong wording,â€? Andrew Overton said. â€œThey are playing on passions, but when it comes to something like that, you have to think logically.â€? Although the majority of speakers at the event were men, Prewitt and Parker claimed that Yes on 26 is a diverse campaign. Yet, out of seven staff members listed on the campaignâ€™s website, only one is a more on next page
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Civil rights veteran John Perkins says the country has made life a racial issue.
tending to safe, legal termination of unwanted pregnancies at a price they can afford?” Chisholm wrote. Tiyi Morris, former Jacksonian and professor of African American studies at Ohio State University, agrees with Chisholm. She said forced sterilization—which offered no choice to the woman being sterilized—isn’t the same as a woman having the option of choosing whether to abort a fetus. “I understand the genocide argument, but for me, women have to control what happens to their own bodies,” Morris told the JFP. “And there is a difference between women having the option for abortion and someone forcing you to be sterilized, and those are two completely separate things.” “I think the black genocide argument might be playing on fear and class issues,”
Morris added. “… I think the legacy of the eugenics movement has caused a sense of mistrust by blacks with the medical community, and I think vestiges of that get passed on.” Final Moments It’s the last few days of the campaign, and Prewitt and Sanders are tired. They have been on the road for campaign events and fielding media calls. When asked to expand on his take of the black genocide argument and how his campaign is working with Personhood USA, the national organization that has pushed for similar failed initiatives, Prewitt is tightlipped. “The Personhood U.S.A movement is equivalent to the Democratic National Committee in how they work in state races,” Prewitt said. “There is nothing extraordinary about their engagement. It happens in political policies all around the world.” In 2008, Colorado became the first state to have a similar initiative on the ballot. It failed with only 27 percent of Coloradans voting in favor, and failed again in 2010. Personhood U.S.A. led the efforts to collect the signatures in Mississippi to get Personhood on the ballot, but this summer, “Yes on 26” took over the efforts to get the initiative passed. The goal of anti-abortion groups is to end abortion in Mississippi and, eventually, to get the U.S Supreme Court to overturn Roe. v. Wade, the 1973 case that gave women the right to choose whether to carry an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy to term. Jackson resident Beverly McMillan became an abortion provider after the Supreme Court ruling. In the late 1960s, she provided medical care to women who had illegal, unsafe abortions by pushing foreign objects into their cervixes to fake a miscarriage. After experiencing a religious conversion, McMillan stopped performing abortions in 1978 and is currently the president of Pro-Life Mississippi. If the initiative bans abortions in Mississippi, McMillan doesn’t think illegal, back-alley abortions will be much of an issue. “I don’t think it will be any worse that it was in 1969,” she said. “In fact, if a women sought an illegal abortion, she would be less likely to be harmed now that she would in 1969. The reason is that illegal abortionists will have access to suction machines, and that will be a much safer approach then the backalley approach in 1969.” During the Oct. 31 press conference, Prewitt and his staff called Mississippians for Healthy Families a front for Planned Parenthood and an “out-of-state“ group. But when pressed about his own out-of-state funding, Prewitt reversed, saying it wasn’t the fact that out-of-state groups were funding the opposition, but that it was abortion clinics. “It’s easy for the other side to dismiss this as a bunch of trivial crud,” Prewitt said Sept. 27. “This is real stuff. This is a deep movement that has a lot of substance to it. “I think if you participated in it, you’d at least see that this isn’t standard politics. It’s not this GOP front. The standard GOP donors haven’t given any money to this,” Prewitt said. 19 “Though you know I’ve love for them to.” jacksonfreepress.com
other ethnic groups at 40.2 abortions per 1,000 women compared to 11.5 abortions per 1,000 white women, Guttmacher reported. Black women may also be more likely to fall prey to “butcher abortions”—the unsafe form of abortions that poor women without access to safe and legal abortions often choose. (Studies show that wealthier women and the men who impregnate them can afford travel to places where abortions are legal, and have long and quietly had abortion procedures performed in the privacy of their doctor’s offices.) Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968, became a proponent for abortion rights. In her autobiography, “Unbought and Unbossed” (Houghton Mifflin, 1970), she writes that after discovering black and poor women were disproportionately harmed when they had illegal abortions, she wanted to make abortions safer—even though it was a politically risky stance. Chisholm cited a study by Edwin M. Gold showing that illegal abortions were the cause of death in 49 percent of blacks obtaining the procedure from 1960 to 1962, compared to 25 percent in white cases. “Which is more like black genocide, I ask my brothers—this, the way things are, or the conditions that I am fighting for in which the full range of family planning services is freely available to all women and classes of color, starting with effective contraception, and exLACEY MCLAUGHLIN
from previous page 1933 to 1983 Mississippi forcibly sterilized woman. The lack of females on staff seems to 683 individuals under a state law that called be a touchy subject for Prewitt, who defends for sterilization of “persons who are afflicted the campaign’s staffing. with hereditary forms of insanity that are re“We have volunteers that are women,” current, idiocy, imbecility, feeble-mindedness he said. “You hire the people who can do the or epilepsy.” job. Fieldwork is hard The documentary work, because you “Maafa 21” unveils the are on the road all the history of the eugenics time. Our women are movement, focusing engaged. We are not on Planned Parentsome male-dominated hood founder Margaorganization. If I could ret Sanger. The film be a woman to answer depicts her work as an your question better, I attempt to wipe out would, but God made the black population me a male, so there through forced sterilyou go. More women ization to promulgate are aborted every year the white race, and it than men, by the way. ties her to the Ku Klux So we are very much Yes on 26 Executive Director Brad Prewitt Klan and Adolf Hitler. callsYes on 26 a “life-affirming campaign.” for the women who are While Sanger was aborted.” a part of the eugenics movement—it apShades of Falwell pealed to so-called progressives and conserThe campaign’s donors are unknown vatives alike—her family says that her work because it is listed as a nonprofit and has not as been mischaracterized, and she has been yet submitted tax filings to the IRS; however, it misquoted throughout history. In 1939, has support from the Tupelo-based American Sanger founded the Negro Project, a birthFamily Association, which the Southern Pov- control campaign for southern blacks. In the erty Law Center lists as a hate group because of documentary, Sanger teams up with the Birth its campaigns against homosexuals. The cam- Control Federation of America—an organizapaign also has legal support from the Liberty tion run mostly by white men. By the time Counsel law firm, partner of Liberty Univer- the organization changed its name to Planned sity, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Parenthood in 1942, Sanger was only loosely Falwell coined the term “moral majority” involved with the organization, states the Marin 1979, and was the center of numerous con- garet Sanger Papers website, a history project troversies. He said publicly, for example, that of New York University. the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were God’s punish“While she did not advocate efforts to ment for the ACLU, abortion providers and limit population growth solely on the basis of gay-rights activists. The Liberty Counsel is also class, ethnicity or race, and refused to encoura hate group, according to the SPLC, because age positive race-based eugenics, Sanger’s repuof its anti-gay activism. tation was permanently tainted by her associaIn September, Yes on 26 created a website tion with the reactionary wing of the eugenics to attack Mississippians for Healthy Families, a movement,” the website states. political action committee working against the Perkins told the audience of about 40 on Personhood measure. Yes on 26 used the site, Sept. 28 that it is strange to see so much outwith an address that sounded like the No on 26 rage when whites kill blacks, yet there is little group, to call out Mississippians for Healthy outrage for the number of aborted black baFamilies’ officers Nsombi Lambright of the bies. “How did we come this place in America ACLU and Kay Scott of Planned Parenthood as black people and white people to where we and their positions on abortion rights. so devalue life?” he asked. “Mississippians for Healthy Families is The abortion-as-eugenics strategy isn’t nothing but a front for the ACLU,” the web- new. Last year, Georgia Right to Life, a antisite states—an ironic smear, considering that abortion group based in Atlanta, placed 65 the ACLU has fought long and hard for the billboards around Atlanta with a picture of a rights of African Americans in the state. black infant and the words: “Black Children are an Endangered Species.” Black Genocide? Walk past the Women’s Health Organiza- ‘Unbought and Unbossed’ tion—the state’s only abortion clinic—on the The film and “Yes on 26” campaign arcorner of Fondren and State streets any week- gues that blacks are having abortions at higher day morning, and you’ll likely see protesters rates than whites. Dr. Freda Bush said that with signs calling abortion “black genocide.” abortions threaten the African American popTheir black genocide argument is rooted ulation, and while the U.S. black population in the history of the United States’ eugenics isn’t declining yet, she said fertility rates for movement, in which African American wom- blacks have decreased. The Guttmacher Instien were victims of forced sterilization, includ- tute reported that blacks experienced the larging right here in Jackson. est decline in abortion rates over other groups Between 1907 and 1963, states forcibly (18 percent) from 2000 to 2008. sterilized more than 64,000 people. From Abortions for blacks are still higher than
November 2 - 8, 2011
The JFP 2011 Election Coverage Issue / Initiative 27
Voter ID: Excessive Regulation? by Elizabeth Waibel
Voting Long Under Fire without attracting federal intervention. While many black Mississippians served in public office during Reconstruction, the conservative white majority soon pushed back and instituted measures such as poll taxes, gerrymandering and literacy tests to keep African Americans from voting. Blacks who wanted to vote could also face outright violence from paramilitary groups such as the Red Shirts, founded in Mississippi in 1875, or white-supremacist terrorists such as the Ku Klux Klan. “Southern brigadiers” began the Red Shirts as a paramilitary group to keep black Republicans from voting after the Civil War. Wearing red shirts, they disrupted rallies, helped suppress the vote at polling places, and threatened and committed violence against black leaders. The effort spread to other states, including the Carolinas, where the Red Shirts became
rounding voter identification. While its proponents laud voter ID as essential for preserving the democratic process, opponents claim it is an effort to discourage African Americans and other minorities from voting—especially those old enough to remember Jim Crow-era tactics such as poll taxes. Rep. Kelvin Buck, D-Holly Springs, is vice president of the Mississippi conference of the NAACP. The NAACP is opposed to the voter-identification measure, he said, adding that the initiative will not address common voting problems such as absentee ballot fraud, mistakes by poll workers and officials using questionable tactics to get elected. “We think that it is more a strategy to suppress voters than it is an answer to the problems related to elections,” he said. Although many conservatives are promoting the measure, Buck said voter ID flies in the face of conservative ideology that usually promotes fewer regulations and reduced government spending. “You are over-regulating the most fundamental right in our country—that is, the right to vote,” he said, adding that making sure everyone has an acceptable ID is an added, recurring cost for states. Buck said there is a difference in how younger people view voting and Mississippi’s Jim Crow history compared to older African Americans. “I don’t think (younger people) have a connection with it,” he said. “… I think they operate in a different kind of world.” Even though Mississippi’s voter-identification initiative mandates funding to provide
VOTER ID, see page 22
by Elizabeth Waibel
an infamous anti-African American force. The Red Shirts helped patrol the streets of Wilmington, N.C., during the Insurrection of 1898, when whites violently overthrew the elected black government of the until-then majority black city. The League of the South, a current neosecessionist group, wears red shirts to indicate their opposition to civil-rights policies such as those espoused by the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center. A group calling itself The Red Shirts regularly holds “flaggings” around the south to support flying the Confederate flag over public buildings and to protest politicians they see as hostile. The Klan, which has re-emerged several times since several Confederate veterans started it in Pulaski, Tenn., in 1865, is best known in part because its violence occurred during much of the 20th century. In 1964,
for example, Ku Klux Klan members murdered civil-rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner for trying to help African Americans in Neshoba County register to vote. In many cases, political maneuvers and scare tactics succeeded in keeping black voters away from the polls. In 1981, J. Morgan Kousser, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, provided written testimony to a congressional subcommittee that was considering renewing Section Five of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires southern states to clear changes to voting laws with the Department of Justice. Kousser wrote that during and after Reconstruction, southern Democrats—the conservative, white, majority party in the UNDER FIRE, see page 22
n the decades after the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870, granting American citizens the right to vote regardless of race, white southerners developed methods to circumvent the amendment and keep African Americans out of the voting booth
officials. Initiative 27 will ask voters, “Should this year, set to go into effect before the 2012 the Mississippi Constitution be amended to elections. Two of those states—South Carorequire a person to submit government is- lina and Texas—must get U.S. Department sued photo identification in order to vote?” The measure is part of a nationwide trend toward stricter identification laws at polling places. But despite voter ID proponents’ assurances that requiring photo identification will safeguard the integrity of the sacred act of vot- The U.S. Department of Justice charged Ike Brown, chairman of the ing, there is little Democratic Party in Noxubee County, with violating white voters’ evidence of wide- rights under the Voting Rights Act. spread impersonation at the polls that voter ID would prevent. of Justice approval under the Voting Rights Act before they can implement their new laws. A Nationwide Trend The Department approved Georgia’s law in Mississippi’s law, if it passes, will be what 2005, but South Carolina and Texas are still the National Conference of State Legislatures awaiting approval. categorizes as a strict photo ID law. That means Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act revoters must show a photo ID to vote on Elec- quires certain states with a history of keeping tion Day, but voters may cast a provisional minorities from voting to get approval from ballot and return to election officials after the the Justice Department before changing their election and show a photo ID for their ballot voting laws. Mississippi’s history of obstructing to be counted—a requirement that can seem African Americans from voting using devices daunting considering the disarray that already such as literacy tests, poll taxes, violence and tends to follow close elections. other tactics, means DOJ will have to approve Georgia and Indiana are the only states Initiative 27 before it could take effect. with strict photo ID laws in effect, although The Justice Department’s scrutiny of votfive more states passed strict photo ID laws ing laws points to the loudest controversy sur-
n 2005, Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Ike Brown decided to go the extra—and illegal—mile to get votes for African American candidates, according to court records. Brown and others intervened at several steps in the election process, from encouraging unqualified candidates to run to poll workers improperly marking ballots to abusing the absentee ballot process. In one case, footnoted at the bottom of a page in the court’s opinion, one person testifies that Brown advised a young woman outside a polling place to “go in there and vote, to use any name, and that no one was going to say anything.” U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee ruled that Brown had illegally discriminated against white voters. The judge’s opinion records a laundry list of improper or fraudulent activities that Brown and the committee designed to manipulate the political process in favor of African American candidates. The case marked the first time that the courts applied the Voting Rights Act—a key piece of civilrights legislation from 1964—to a black man for disenfranchising white voters. Brown’s actions have made him the poster child for voter-ID supporters in Mississippi. Some say requiring voters to provide identification is a painless step that will keep unsavory characters, like Brown, from voting under the names of those who should be resting peacefully in a cemetery. Others say that, at best, voter ID is a solution looking for a problem, and at worst it is a discriminatory practice that raises the specter of recently deceased Jim Crow. This year’s Mississippi ballot will ask voters to decide the issue instead of elected
The JFP 2011 Election Coverage Issue / Voter ID, from page 21
VOTER IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
Current Voter ID Requirements No Voter ID Law Strict Photo Photo Non-Photo The voter-ID craze is sweeping the nation—despite little evidence that it stops voter fraud.
identification for people who do not already have one and cannot afford it, opponents of voter ID laws say the requirement still imposes a burden because voters may have to pay fees to obtain copies of documents such as birth certificates and other materials needed to get the special ID. Tennessee recently enacted a law requiring a photo ID to vote and provided funding for registered voters to get free photo IDs if they needed them. One 96-year-old woman was denied a free ID, however, because she did not have her marriage certificate. Dorothy Cooper, who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn., told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the state Driver Service Center denied her request for an ID card despite the fact that she had a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card, a Social Security card, a photo ID issued by the Chattanooga police and her birth certificate to prove who she was. The clerk at the Driver Service Center said Cooper could not get an ID card since the names on her birth certificate and her voter registration did not match. Cooper is registered to vote under her married name, and her birth certificate shows
her maiden name, as is to be expected. Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, sponsored Initiative 27 and modeled its wording after Indiana’s voter ID requirement. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, it said that people who had trouble getting copies of their birth certificates or who faced other obstacles to voting might still successfully challenge the law. Tennessee officials said that they would work with Cooper to get her an ID, but she could also vote absentee, since the new law did not require an ID for absentee ballots.
son) and show a photo ID in order to get a ballot sent out,” he said. From 2004 to 2007, Attorney General Jim Hood said his office conducted 38 voterfraud investigations. Almost all of them involved absentee-ballot issues. Jan Schaefer, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said they investigated 16 voter-fraud cases during the last statewide election. Schaefer said most of the cases the attorney general’s office works on involve absentee ballots and vote buying, where candidates give people money to vote for them. Brown’s Noxubee County case is perhaps the most high-profile case of voter fraud in the state of Mississippi. Such cases seem to be rare, however. During former President George W. Bush’s time in office, the Department of Justice tried to crack down on voter fraud, The New York Times reported, but turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections. The 2007 article reported that many of the fraud cases the Department of Justice investigated were the result of isolated individuals making honest mistakes, such as misunderstanding eligibility rules or accidentally filling out two registration forms. Officials brought charges against 120 people and convicted 86. More than 30 of those were involved in small vote-buying schemes, in which a candidate paid people to vote for them. A handful of people voted twice. Prosecutors found little evidence of widespread, organized fraud.
Where’s the Evidence? Despite claims that voter ID will protect the integrity of elections, documented cases of in-person voter fraud are relatively scarce. Most voter ID laws do not address absentee voting. If Mississippi’s initiative passes, the state Legislature will have to decide how to apply its requirements to the voting process. Fillingane said the initiative will apply to absentee ballots, where most fraud occurs, but the initiative itself does not address absentee voting. “It would still apply to people who would want to vote absentee; (they would go in per-
Voter ID for Mississippi Voter fraud has been a cause célèbre of the Republican Party nationwide in recent years. Fillingane introduced the initiative after several failed attempts to pass a similar law through the Legislature. Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has also pushed for voter ID in Mississippi. During last year’s election, however, Hosemann’s office received only two reports of people who came to the polls and found out someone had already voted using their name. In one of the cases, the poll manager had mistakenly marked the wrong name. The Daily Caller, a conservative news
delegate to Alabama’s constitutional convention suggested that banning wife beaters from voting would disqualify 60 percent of black males. In predominately black districts in the South, election officials would move polling places several times during the day or refuse to open the polls at all. In an effort to keep those who could not read from voting, states instituted literacy tests (sometimes allowing questions like, “How many bubbles in a bar of soap?”) and quizzes over constitutional law, and denied people assistance in filling out ballots if they could not read. South Carolina divided its candidates
on eight ballots that voters had to place into the correct eight ballot boxes. Poll workers would then shuffle the boxes during the day to make it difficult for literate voters to help illiterate voters put their ballots in the right order before entering the polling place. Mississippi was also notorious for its “Shoestring District,” which followed the Mississippi River in a thin line so as to concentrate as many black voters into one district as possible. This “gerrymandering”—named for Gov. Elbridge Gerry’s efforts to engineer a district to benefit his party in 1812—ensured that while blacks might have a majority
website, recently chastised NAACP President Benjamin Jealous for criticizing voter ID laws while a Mississippi NAACP official, Lessadolla Sowers, was in prison for voter fraud. In April, a Tunica County jury convicted Sowers on 10 counts of fraudulently casting absentee ballots, the Daily Caller reported—a type of fraud the initiative does not address. As conservatives campaign on balancing the budget and Mississippi tightens its fiscal belt, the cost of implementing voter ID is another hurdle. Rep. Fillingane initially estimated that providing free voter ID cards to people who do not have them would cost taxpayers a mere $100,000. The Mississippi Legislative Budget Office put the cost at just under $1.5 million, however, if the state offers its regular ID cards for free instead of designing a new card specifically for voting, as Fillingane has suggested. The Legislature will be responsible for working out the details and funding the initiative should voters pass it in November. Jim Harper is the director of information policy studies at the CATO Institute, a conservative think tank that promotes limited government. He has written about the push for voter ID across the nation. Harper said his concern is not with individual states experimenting with voter ID policies, but that someday, the federal government also might push for national identification. “If a state like Mississippi wants to try it, that’s fine by me,” he said. “Maybe somebody will do some good research and turn up whether in-person ballot fraud drops or not (and other states can follow).” So far, Harper said his research, like that of others, has not turned up many instances of in-person ballot casting fraud. He said voter ID will continue to be an issue as more races are waged with tighter margins, but even in a tight race, one person casting ballots at different polling places is much less effective than corrupting a computer system or filling out 100 absentee ballots. “If I were trying to change the results of an election, I wouldn’t do in-person ballot fraud, because that’s really inefficient,” Harper told the Jackson Free Press. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
November 2 - 8, 2011
UNDER FIRE, from page 21
South at the time—used at least 16 different tactics to hamper black political power without denying the vote to enough people outright to invite federal intervention. Mississippi’s “pig law,” passed in 1875, barred people who had stolen any property valued at $10 from voting. Other states instituted similar bans for people convicted of minor offences with prospective African American voters as the target. In 1895, South Carolina prohibited those convicted of housebreaking, fornication, wife beating and miscegenation (race mixing) from voting, while allowing murderers and embezzlers to vote. In 1901, a white
in one district, they would not gain political power over the rest of the state’s districts. Some of the same tactics used in the South could also be deployed against other groups if their votes challenged the status quo. In 1882, The New York Times reported that Wisconsin had a shoestring congressional district “almost as remarkable as the one in Mississippi.” While this state’s district concentrated African American and Republican voters in one area, the Wisconsin district collected foreign-born residents and Democrats in an area stretching from Milwaukee to Green Bay. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
Eminent Domain: ‘Taking’ Too Much? by Elizabeth Waibel
n 2001, Nissan was preparing to come to property owners, but could not use eminent Canton, and Lonzo Archie’s home stood domain to take land to quickly build projects in the way of a new factory. The state, eager in hopes of increasing jobs and tax revenue. to bring in the factory’s jobs and economic Greg Gibson, spokesman for the Misbenefits, reasoned that Archie’s land was criti- sissippi Farm Bureau Federation, said his orcal enough to the project to exercise its power ganization is campaigning for the initiative as of eminent domain on behalf of Nissan. a way to get back to using eminent domain “The lower courts for traditional public had given the state of uses, such as building Mississippi immedischools and roads, inate possession of my stead of for commerhome and one acre of cial economic developmy land, and … sevment. The federation en acres of my father’s is promoting the initialand,” Archie said tive as a response to a this week. “At that U.S. Supreme Court point, we had 90 days decision in 2005, Kelo to move. We were The state tried to take Lonzo Archie’s v. City of New Lonland by eminent domain in 2001 to make counting down.” don, which upheld a way for a Nissan plant in Canton. Archie’s family city’s right to condemn had owned the land and seize private propfor decades, however, erty through eminent and didn’t want to sell—especially not at the domain and transfer it to a private commercial cut-rate prices governments tend to hand out entity to promote economic growth. in eminent domain settlements. Tensions ran New London’s land grab for “economic even higher because Archie is black, and Mis- development” didn’t turn out the way the city sissippi is not known for respecting the prop- had hoped, however. In 2009, The Wall Street erty rights of its African American citizens. Journal reported that the developments the Nissan didn’t really need Archie’s land, city promised when it took land by eminent but the state wanted to show other companies domain—a hotel, offices for pharmaceutical that it could put together land for other facto- giant Pfizer and high-end condos—never apries if a good enough offer came along. peared, and Pfizer planned to close its research Instead of packing up, Archie and his center in New London—the center for profamily decided to take their fight to a higher posed development. court. With help from a civil-liberties law Despite the lack of the promised ecofirm and with nationwide attention brought nomic benefits in New London on land taken to the fight by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the state by eminent domain, the Supreme Court’s ruldropped its case, and Nissan built around Ar- ing still stands. Gibson said 43 states have alchie’s property instead. ready initiated some kind of eminent-domain Initiative 31 would prevent governments reform since the decision. that acquire property through eminent domain In the past few years, Mississippi legislafrom selling it to any non-governmental entity tors have introduced various bills similar to the for 10 years. The initiative makes exceptions initiative, often with the federation’s support. for land taken for building public infrastrucIn 2007, the House of Representatives ture and utilities, flood control with levees, passed a bill to make it more difficult for the as well as for removing public nuisances and state to use eminent domain for private develabandoned or uninhabitable property. The opment. The Senate amended and also passed state or a developer could still negotiate with the bill, but it died in conference.
In 2009, both chambers passed another bill to prevent the government from using eminent domain to acquire private property “for retail, office commercial, industrial or residential development; or for enhancement of tax revenue or for transfer to a person.” Gov. Haley Barbour vetoed the bill, saying it “would do more damage to job creation and economic development than any government action since Mississippi rightfully began trying to balance agriculture with industry in 1935,” and would prevent large-scale projects like the Nissan plant from locating in Mississippi. The House of Representatives voted to override Barbour’s veto, but the Senate did not, despite the fact that it passed the bill easily before the governor’s veto. The November ballot initiative has attracted much of the same criticism that Barbour leveled at the 2009 bill. John Reeves, a board member with the Jackson Redevelopment Authority, has said the initiative could hamper JRA’s ability to take blighted properties, like some around Jackson State University, for development—but the language includes an exception for such property. In June, Leland Speed, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, filed a lawsuit to keep the initiative off the ballot. Speed said he filed the suit as a citizen and not as the executive director of MDA. He echoed Barbour’s concerns about the 2009 bill, saying the initiative could halt future economic-development projects. In September, the state Supreme Court said the initiative’s constitutionality was not “ripe” for review, because it is still just a proposed amendment. Although the state dropped its case to acquire Archie’s land, Gibson said it would likely have an easier time taking the land now, after the Supreme Court decision. Archie has appeared in Farm Bureau advertisements and is encouraging people to vote for the initiative. “Back during that time, we had plenty of public opinion,” Archie said. “We had people all over the state that agreed with us.” Comment at www.jfp.ms.
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Feature Writer Wanted Do you Tivo “My Fair Wedding”? Or do words like three-tiered cake or tulle and lace make you smile from earto-ear? If so, have we got an assignment for you. The JFP is currently seeking writers to seek out and write about unique couples in the Jackson metro area for our Hitched column. Interested? Send letter of interest and writing samples to email@example.com.
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