By SHELIA BYRD
JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says he’ll soon give voters an education about three petition initiatives that will be on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
But he’s not the only one. Voters can also expect to hear from supporters — and possibly opponents — of the proposals on voter identification, eminent domain and abortion that will appear alongside races for statewide, legislative and local offices.
Lawmakers ended the 2011 session without offering competing language for the proposals. Hosemann said his office will now prepare for the next phase of the initiative process.
“We are busily preparing the arguments both for and against each ballot initiative and you will begin to see the pamphlets distributed across the state in the next few months,” Hosemann wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “You will also see our agency traveling the state holding at least one public hearing in each of the old five congressional districts regarding the three ballot initiatives.”
Leslie Riley, a Pontotoc resident who sponsored the anti-abortion initiative, said he traveled 600 miles around the state on Tuesday, trying to win support for a proposed constitutional amendment that says life begins at conception.
“We’re working on literature. We have a couple of handouts. Basically, we just tell people. Mississippians are overwhelmingly pro-life,” Riley said Thursday.
The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation sponsored the initiative that would prohibit the government from taking private land through use of eminent domain to give to another person or business. Greg Gibson, a spokesman for the federation, said the group is still working on its education plan.
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and others have opposed legislative efforts to restrict eminent domain. Opponents have said such a proposal could hurt economic development since eminent domain is often used to acquire property for projects.
Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said he’ll continue to work the Mississippi Republican Party and tea party groups to spread the word about the initiative that will require voters to show photo ID to cast a ballot. Fillingane said those groups helped him get the required 89,000-plus signatures to put the proposal on the ballot.
Rep. Willie Bailey, D-Greenville, opposed the voter ID initiative, and said he would urge voters not to pass it. Many Democrats have argued that the bill harkens to Jim Crow and is intended to suppress turnout of poor and black voters.
“I’m going to encourage the people to vote against it. I think it’s trying to discourage a lot of minorities from voting. I don’t think there’s any voter fraud to any magnitude that requires identification. It’s on the ballot purely to pull out the Republican base in this election year,” Bailey said Thursday.
Bailey said he expected the Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to mount a campaign against voter ID. Derrick Johnson, the state NAACP president, couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.