Ballotpedia's 2011 Ballot Measure Breakdown: Mississippi and New Jersey

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October 13, 2011

Breakdown of 2011 ballot measures: Mississippi and New Jersey

By Al Ortiz

MISSISSIPPI and NEW JERSEY, United States: The states of Mississippi and New Jersey haven't had much ballot measure activity in the past few years. In the 2011 elections, however, all four measures on the ballot between the two states have stirred up endless debates and heated arguments.

This week, we take a closer look at what actions have developed regarding those measures, including a federal law that could make one of those proposals ineffective. Three out of the four measures discussed and dissected below are indirect initiated constitutional amendments, all in Mississippi, with New Jersey's ballot also containing a constitutional amendment. In the case of the Garden State, however, this measure is a legislative referral, with some twists to it.


State Number of measures in 2009 Number of measures in 2011 Change between the two years
Mississippi 0 3 +3
New Jersey 1 1 0

Magnifying the states



Mississippi residents haven't seen any ballot measures in seven years, and the last decided measure was a legislative referral, not a citizens' initiative like this year's proposals. However, similarly to that measure, which dealt with marriage in the state, the citizen initiatives scheduled for the November 8, 2011 election offer contentious political topics to be discussed.

The three ballot proposals this year offer what is being called by reports a "trifecta" of ballot measures backed by Republican supporters. Topics include: abortion, voter identification, and eminent domain.

  • Initiative 26 proposes adding language to the Mississippi Constitution that declares that life begins at "the moment of fertilization."
  • Initiative 27 would require Voter ID at the polls in the state.
  • Initiative 31 aims to prohibit state and local government from taking private property by eminent domain.

The swirling debates are ongoing, but litigation has also played a part in opponents' efforts at defeating the measures. Attempts were made in the state this year to strike certain measures off the ballot, as 3 lawsuits were filed against 2 measures. Those lawsuits failed, however.

The most recent ruling on a 2011 Mississippi measure came in September 8, 2011 when the Mississippi Supreme Court denied a request to remove Initiative 26 from the state general election. In the ruling, the high court stated: "Just as this Court cannot prohibit legislators from offering proposals in the House or Senate, this Court cannot impede voters from submitting proposals through the voter initiative process."

The lawsuit extends all the way back to July 15, 2010, when it was filed by Attorney Robert McDuff on behalf of two Lafayette County residents.

In a statement, McDuff said, "This lawsuit is brought to preserve Mississippi's Bill of Rights. This Initiative specifically attempts to modify the Mississippi Bill of Rights by changing the word "person" to include a fertilized egg. Like the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, the Mississippi constitution states that 'the initiative process shall not be used...for the proposal, modification or repeal of any portion of the bill of rights of this constitution.'"

Impacts of 2011 measures:

Notable Quotes:

“By voting ‘Yes on 26’ this November, Mississippi voters have an opportunity to win a major battle in the fight for human life. While my opponent, Jim Hood, has refused to support this amendment and the fight for life, I will not only support the initiative now- I pledge to wholeheartedly defend it from any legal challenges that may arise after I’m elected Attorney General."[3]
  • Planned Parenthood regional director of public policy Felicia Brown-Williams arguing against Initiative 26's proposal:
"[The Amendment] does nothing to prevent unintended pregnancy or reduce the need for abortion. The people behind the personhood initiative do not care about preventing unintended pregnancies, or they would be working with Planned Parenthood to increase access to prevention initiatives like access to affordable birth control and sex education."

Looking ahead:

Mississippi legislative session is set to begin on January 3, 2012, as per Article IV of the Mississippi Constitution.

New Jersey

New Jersey

In the past two years, residents in New Jersey have voted on one ballot measure per election. This year is no different. New Jersey voters will head to the polls on November 8 to decide on a lone ballot measure dealing with sports betting - Public Question 1.

However, the effects of the measure, if enacted by a majority vote, can be confusing due to federal mandates that are currently in effect.

Despite being referred to the ballot by the state legislature and calling for a constitutional amendment, the measure is not binding. Sports betting would not be allowed in the state until a federal law that limits sports betting in four states is repealed or overturned.

If the federal law is overturned, then the bill would allow betting on sports events from the amateur to professional level. Wagering would take place at casinos in Atlantic City and state racetracks. Those wishing to place a wager on an event would be able to do so in person, by telephone or on the internet. However, a ban is included on placing bets on college games that take place in the state or where a state college is involved.

Impacts of 2011 measure:

Notable quotes:

"New Jersey dropped the ball once when it came to legalizing sports betting. Now is our chance to get it right. Pennsylvania's slot parlors are already out-hauling our own casinos, and without new ways to draw bettors to Atlantic City, its competitive edge will dull."[4]
"[The NFL has had a] long-held, unwavering opposition to gambling on NFL games."

Looking ahead:

Article IV of the New Jersey Constitution provides that each Legislature is constituted for a term of two years, split into two annual sessions. Because the Constitution also specifies that all business from the first year may be continued into the second year, the distinction between the two annual sessions is more ceremonial than actual. The two-year legislative term begins at noon on the second Tuesday in January of each even-numbered year, which for the 2010-2012 term was on January 12, 2010. At the end of the second year, all unfinished business expires.

Next week's Breakdown: Ohio and Texas
Last week's Breakdown: Louisiana and Maine

See also

Ballotpedia News

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