Mississippi Voters Shoot Down 'Personhood' Measure, While Ohio Backs Unions [Updated]

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Rock the vote.
Rock the vote.

Democrats made some symbolic gains across the country on election night, voting down anti-abortion and anti-union measures in Mississippi and Ohio respectively. The progressive victories don't quite making up for last year's Republican-dominiated midterm elections, but certainly stoke some optimism among Democrats, particularly about President Obama's reelection chances next year. In Arizona, the Tea Party-backed author of the state's controversial immigration law was defeated in a recall vote. Mississippi voters, meanwhile, rejected Initiative 26, an anti-abortion measure that would have amended the state Constitution to define life “to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." If passed, the amendment would have effectively outlawed abortions, and would have undoubtedly faced fervent challenges on constitutional grounds because it conflicts with the right to abortion established by Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Dubbed the "personhood" initiative, the measure drew national attention and staunch opposition leading up to the vote. What was at stake for pro-choice supporters, according to the New York Times:

Opponents, led by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, said the proposal would essentially outlaw all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest; would bar morning-after pills and certain forms of contraception such as IUD’s; and could limit in vitro fertility procedures.

Outgoing Republican governor Haley Barbour, who's pro-life, called the initiative "unnecessarily ambiguous" and felt that the measure would have been better left to the Legislature, not the voters. He supported the measure nonetheless. Pro-life supporters, including many religious communities, saw the initiative as an opportunity set in motion similar measures across the country.

Elsewhere, in Ohio, voters overwhelmingly decided to repeal a bill passed in March that that curbed unions' rights, specifically their ability to collectively bargain, by a 62 to 38 percent margin. "Attacking education and other public employees is not at all what the public wants to see," said Karen M. White, political director of the National Education Association. "It should resonate with politicians that they've gone too far."

Republican Governor John Kasich admitted, "It's time to pause" before proposing new legislation. "The people have clearly spoken … They might have said it was too much too soon."

Some said the victory for labor in a swing state could reinvigorate support and action for Democrats, namely Obama, in the area, while others insisted the vote was "not a purely partisan issue," and therefore doesn't foretell support for the president in 2012. A symbolic ballot initiative against Obama's health care law did pass in Ohio yesterday.

Mayors won reelection in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Baltimore, indicating that the night wasn't one of complete incumbent overhaul. Iowa Republicans, though, failed to take control of the State Senate, where Democrats have managed to block a ban on same-sex marriage.

In Ohio, a registered Republican voter represented the unrest and ambiguity in the air, telling the Times that he would probably not vote for the President, but wasn't pleased with Republican strategies either. "When you just say 'No, no, no' because you want this guy to be a one-term president, I have a problem with that," he said. Despite some progressive wins, there appear to be a lot of hearts and minds up for grabs. It's going to be a long year.