A Mississippi initiative stating that life begins at conception, known as the “personhood” amendment, was handed an unexpected defeat in Tuesday’s off-year election balloting.
The outcome of Mississippi’s Proposition 26 was among the most anticipated of the 2011 elections, which featured governor’s races in Kentucky and Mississippi, Arizona’s first recall election, and a litany of ballot measures on issues ranging from voter identification to liquor.
The election was also expected to be scrutinized for evidence of trends that could affect the 2012 presidential race. A week ago, Colorado voters overwhelmingly defeated a statewide tax increase, which was widely interpreted as bad news for President Obama and a promising sign for Republicans.
The balloting Tuesday featured nothing quite so cut-and-dry as a tax hike, but there was encouraging news for both parties from the handful of states that held elections.
• Personhood: Mississippi voters rejected an amendment declaring that life begins at conception by a margin of 58 to 42 percentage points with 83 percent of the vote counted. The defeat came as something of a surprise, given that it was supported by both gubernatorial candidates, but a last-minute push by pro-choice advocates raised questions about the measure’s possible unintended consequences.
A personhood amendment has yet to be approved by voters. Colorado voters rejected similar measures in 2008 and 2010.
• Governor: In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear sailed to a re-election victory over Republican state Senate President David Williams. With 96 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Beshear led by a margin of 56 to 35 percentage points.
Republicans appeared to even the gubernatorial score in Mississippi, where Republican Phil Bryant was leading Democrat Johnny DuPree in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Haley Barbour. With 85 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Bryant was ahead by a margin of 61 to 39 percentage points.
• Voting: A measure to require photo identification before voting in Mississippi led by a margin of 59 to 41 percentage points with 22 percent of the vote counted. In Maine, a proposal to restore same-day voter registration was ahead by 60 to 40 percentage points with 84 percent of the vote counted.
Earlier this year, the Maine legislature replaced the state’s longstanding same-day registration law with one requiring voters to sign up at least two days ahead of time. Proponents said the new law gave clerks more time to weed out fraudulent registrations, while critics called the law a solution in search of a problem, given Maine’s clean elections record.
• Iowa legislature: The balance of power in Iowa’s state Senate was at stake in a hotly contested special election to fill a vacant seat. The Democrats ended up with the win as Democrat Liz Mathis defeated Republican Cindy Golding.
Democrats now hold a 26-24 seat advantage in the state Senate. A Republican win would have had crucial implications for legislative efforts to place a measure banning same-sex marriage on the ballot in a state with a Republican governor and state Senate. The Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009.
• Arizona recall: State Senate President Russell Pearce, author of Senate Bill 1070, the landmark anti-illegal immigration measure, appeared ready to concede defeat after trailing his opponent, Jerry Lewis, by a margin of 53 to 45 percent late Tuesday. Both candidates are Republicans.
“If being recalled means keeping your promises, then so be it,” said Mr. Pearce at a press conference outside a supporter’s home in Mesa.
The campaign was seen as a referendum on S.B. 1070 and Mr. Pearce’s border-security agenda, but the victory could be short-lived: The winner must run again in 2012 to hold the seat.