December 06, 2011
The ACLU of Mississippi has joined with the Mississippi NAACP, Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, the Steps Coalition and Mississippians United Against Voter ID to gather 1 million signatures telling U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to reject the state's voter identification requirement.
Initiative 27, which requires voters to present government-issued ID at the polls, was approved during the Nov. 8 general election. The measure is unnecessary and could lead to tens of thousands of Mississippians being stripped of their constitutional right to vote.
Help us defeat the plan by sending Holder a postcard, urging him to reject voter ID in Mississippi.
November 11, 2011
By Nsombi Lambright, ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director
Tuesday was a very emotional day for me. I began my work that day by voting. I always measure voter turnout (and potential problems) by what's happening at my own polling place. That went smoothly. I then went to campaign headquarters to find out what neighborhoods needed canvassing in order to make sure that people were "getting out to vote." Rabbi Debra Kassoff and I spent most of the day canvassing the communities surrounding Brinkley Middle School and Johnson Elementary School in northwest Jackson. These neighborhoods are joined by Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. While canvassing these neighborhoods, we saw many things. We witnessed poverty and government neglect, but we also witnessed family and community connectivity. We saw generations of families living under one roof. Grandma, daughter and granddaughter were all going to vote at the first home that we visited. Unfortunately, granddaughter never received her voter registration card although she'd registered multiple times at the WIC office. We talked to many grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, mothers and fathers who assured us that the family had voted against Initiatives 26 and 27 that day. We also had the opportunity to speak to young brothers who didn't understand what the initiatives were about. Working directly in communities still brings me as much joy today as it did almost 20 years ago when I started organizing. It centers me and reminds me what this work is all about. The folks that I work with always remind me of my family and they remind me that even though I have a job that pays me to do this work, I am not disconnected from the communities that we serve. These are my people, whether I run into them at a meeting, a family reunion, church or the grocery store. I am privileged to do this work and will keep fighting!! Little Sister, I'll be back to make sure that you get your registration card this time!
November 02, 2011
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said on Nov. 2 he's concerned about Initiative 26, an extreme measure that could have unintended consequences.
"I believe life begins at conception. Unfortunately, this personhood amendment doesn't say that," Barbour said on MSNBC. "That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning."
Barbour also made comments to Fox News and local media. For the full story, read here.
October 14, 2011
Oct. 18 Community Forum and Discussion
American Association of University Women, Cleveland Branch
Delta State University Alumni House in Cleveland, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Oct. 19 Save The Pill Rally!
Oxford Courthouse Lawn, 5 p.m.
Oct. 20 Forum on Initiative 26 and Initiative 27
Sponsored by the Biloxi Branch of the NAACP
Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi, 6 p.m.
Oct. 20 Election Forum
Tougaloo College Pre-Law Society, 6 p.m.
500 West County Line Road
Tougaloo, MS 39174
Oct. 25 Personhood and You: Implications of Initiative #26
Barnard Observatory, 7 p.m.
Student Union Dr. and North Lane, adjacent to the Grove in Oxford
Oct. 25 Amendment 26: Exploring the Implications of MS's Personhood Initiative
Mississippi College School of Law, 6 p.m .
151 E. Griffith St., Jackson
Oct. 31 Ballot Initiatives Town Hall
New Hope Baptist Church in Greenville, 6 p.m.
Nov. 1 Vote No To Amendment 26 Dance In!
Drill Field @ Mississippi State University
Starkville, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 Community Forum on the Legal Consequences of Proposition 26
The University of Mississippi School of Law, Room 1078 at 5 p.m.
Nov. 3 Ballot Initiatives Town Hall
Mound Bayou Community Facilities Building in Mound Bayou, 6 p.m.
For more information about the events, contact Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh, 601 354-3408. None is sponsored by the ACLU of Mississippi.
September 30, 2011
Oct. 13, 2011
A townhall meeting was held at Jackson State University to discuss Initiative 26. More than 150 came out as ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Nsombi Lambright and others talked about the dangers the proposed constitutional amendment would have on women and families if it is passed on Nov. 8.
The initiative, which attempts to give legal rights to fertilized eggs, would ban some commonly used forms of birth control, in vitro-fertilization and abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. The measure has been publicly opposed by medical associations and other organizations. Lambright explained to the gathering that the initiative would allow government intrusion in decisions that should be made by women and their families.
The implications of the measure are serious. The initiative would force women whose lives are at risk to carry a pregnancy to term or risk criminal charges. The threat of criminal charges also would loom over doctors who must consider whether to perform life-saving treatments on women. Lambright urged participants to educate others about the perils of Initiative 26, and to vote "No" on Election Day.
The event was sponsored by the Jackson State University School of Social Work.
September 30, 2011
By Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh
I have worked to protect the rights of women across the country for nearly 20 years. As an organizer for a national women’s rights organization, I traveled around the country working beside activists to prevent anti-abortion extremists from shutting down abortion clinics with their rhetoric, their bodies, and sometimes their bullets.
I have been outside hundreds of clinics watching extremists spew hate and judgment on women and their families entering these facilities while holding a Bible to justify it. I have seen parents with up to a dozen children ranging from newborn to teens standing in 100-plus degree weather for eight hours holding signs (that most of them couldn’t even read or understand) in an attempt to intimidate or shame women from getting an abortion. I have worked with federal, state, and local law enforcement in an effort just to get existing laws enforced at clinics which are legal businesses and more importantly – healthcare facilities. I have taught doctors, nurses, and receptionists how to protect themselves and their children from harassment in their homes, in their children’s schools, and at the healthcare facilities.
In all these years of working tirelessly with loving caring human beings who risk their lives every day to provide safe, legal, and sometimes medically necessary healthcare to women – nothing would stop the bullet that killed my friend and someone I admired – Dr. George Tiller. He was killed while attending service at his church.
Today, we are seeing a different kind of “bullet” aimed at the heart of women. This past legislative session was frightening for those of us who fight to defend the dignity of women across this country. We are still making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes and we face assaults on our fundamental rights to control our own bodies. We watch legislators in our states and in DC spew vitriol about us in an attempt to legislate our womb and our ability to access services. While the men hold these great debates about us, we are getting breakfast for our kids, heading off to our second job, meeting with our children’s teachers, and caring for our aging parents while trying to scrape up enough money for the rent that is due in a few days.
Mississippi extremists want to take away the right to abortion and birth control by passing the “so called” Personhood Ballot Initiative #26. It is dangerous and is an all out assault on women and their families. If passed, this amendment would not only ban abortion but also birth control and many assisted reproductive healthcare procedures which include in-vitro fertilization. The initiative will insert government control over our wombs, our ability to choose when and how many children we have, and we will be criminally investigated when we have a miscarriage.
I still have nightmares about my friend being murdered. I see the bullet exit the weapon in slow motion and I dream that I put my hand up and stop it. Initiative #26 is a bullet. The bullet is moving slowly through the air in Mississippi. This time, I am putting my whole body up to stop it. Will you?
Don’t allow this initiative to pass. Individuals across the state are banding together and getting out there to educate voters on the broad and sweeping implications of Initiative #26 if passed. Organizations are educating their members and mobilizing to the streets. Even if you oppose abortion, this “bullet” will explode into a million pieces and it WILL hit you too. Get out there and talk to your friends, family, church, and civic organizations. Make a case for stopping the bullet. On November 8, use your hand to stop the bullet and vote NO on Initiative #26. If you sleep in on November 8, you might just wake up to a nightmare.
September 15, 2011
The Mississippi Supreme Court refused Sept. 8 to prevent proposed Initiative Measure Number 26 from being placed on the November 2011 ballot. The initiative attempts to redefine the term “person” in the Mississippi Bill of Rights to apply at the moment of fertilization. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the initiative, but instead said that it would not rule on any proposed measure before the election.
The initiative was challenged by a Mississippicitizen because it failed to comply with the ballot initiative process as set forth in the Mississippi Constitution, which forbids making modifications to the Bill of Rights.
“We're disappointed with the ruling,” said Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “A measure will be on the ballot that will allow the government to dictate what is a private matter that's best decided by a woman, her family and within the context of her faith.Mississippivoters should reject this intrusive and dangerous measure.”
“This initiative is extreme and could severely undermine women's access to birth control, in vitro fertilization and life-saving medical procedures,” said Bear Atwood, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “This measure is harmful to women and has no place on the ballot.”
“It is unfortunate the court decided it could not review the initiative at this point in time, but the Mississippi Constitution is clear -- you cannot make any changes to the Bill of Rights through the initiative process,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
“As a lifelong Mississippian, I am disappointed that this broad and intrusive measure has been allowed on the ballot,” said Cristen Hemmins, plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the initiative. “I call on all voters to vote ‘no' on #26. The government should not be interfering with the personal and private health care decisions of Mississippi families.”
February 27, 2009
JACKSON, MS - The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Mississippi filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging the state's denial of voting rights to citizens with felony convictions. Although the Mississippi Constitution permits people who have been convicted of a crime to vote for president and vice president, election administrators are denying that right in practice. In today's filings, the ACLU asked the court to allow these citizens to register to vote in time to cast ballots for president and vice president this November.
"With the presidential election less than two months away, Mississippi is denying thousands of citizens their fundamental right to vote," said Nancy Abudu, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "By refusing to allow eligible citizens to register and vote for the highest offices in the land, Mississippi election officials are undermining the integrity of the state's election system and degrading our country's democratic principles. We will not sit back and let election supervisors continue to violate state and federal law."
According to Mississippi's constitution, people with certain felony convictions are allowed to vote for president and vice president, but not other political offices. But because the state's voter registration application does not allow all prospective voters to register for presidential and vice presidential elections only, many voters are wrongly disqualified. The ACLU is representing Jerry Young and Christy Colley, two Mississippi residents who have been convicted of felonies in the past and cannot vote due to the flawed administration of the state's election laws.
In addition to the state constitution, Mississippi's voter disenfranchisement practices violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act, which establishes procedures to increase the number of eligible citizens registered to vote in federal elections.
"I pay my taxes and have paid my debt to society, I should be given my right to vote," said Young. "This is a right I take very seriously. I am a citizen of Mississippi and the United States and I want my voice to be heard this November."
In 2004, Mississippi's secretary of state unlawfully circumvented the state constitution by amending the voter registration form and adding a number of felonies to the list of crimes that disqualifies an individual from voting. The ACLU challenged the state's interpretation of its felony disenfranchisement laws in state court and that lawsuit is pending.
"The unlawful disenfranchisement of thousands of Mississippians is unconscionable. Many of these people work and pay both state and federal taxes, but they have no voice in choosing their elected officials, no say in who represents them," said Kristy Bennett, staff attorney with the ACLU of Mississippi. "Our state law specifically provides that all people, regardless of whether they have a felony conviction of any kind, are entitled to vote in elections for president and vice president. It is obvious that the framers of our state constitution recognized the importance of allowing all citizens to vote for the leaders of this country and we must continue to fight for this fundamental right today."
Attorneys on the case are Abudu, Laughlin McDonald and Neil Bradley of the ACLU Voting Rights Project and Bennett of the ACLU of Mississippi.
For more information about the work of the ACLU of Mississippi please visit www.msaclu.org and to learn about the ACLU Voting Rights Project go to www.votingrights.org