Election Day Special: Are Embryos People? Mississippi Voters May Say Yes

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Aside from one controversial abortion referendum in Mississippi, Tuesday's election reflects how states are struggling through tough times.

In Ohio, people are pulling levers to decide on a law that curbs unions' power to rein in the state budget.

Voters in Maine and New Jersey are grappling with whether or not to legalize some kinds of gambling.

Georgia and Washington are looking to tweak their alcohol laws.

But the vote that's getting the most attention is a proposed amendment to Mississippi's state constitution that would declare a fertilized egg a person. As The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff writes, "no state has ever given an embryo constitutional rights and, legally, it’s not quite clear what happens when you do."

Our guide to tonight's vote:

Mississippi Personhood: Voters are likely to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would make a fertilized egg a person, and therefore some birth control and in vitro fertilization techniques a murder weapon. Even some anti-abortion activists are concerned that the law will hurt their cause: because it is so sweeping, the Supreme Court could end up declaring it unconstitutional. Many pro-lifers advocate the more incremental approach they have been taking for several years, increasing limits on abortion late in pregnancy. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said he voted for the measure, though he had "some concerns about it," ABC News' Huma Kahn reports.

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Limits on union bargaining rights in Ohio: Polls show that a majority of Ohioans would like to overturn the law passed earlier this year that bars public-sector unions from bargaining for better health insurance and does away with raises based on seniority alone. This ballot initiative has gotten a lot of attention because Republican candidate Mitt Romney wouldn't commit to supporting it, even though he had in the summer. After demurring that it was a local issue, Romney eventually said he was backing the law. NBC News' First Read says that if the law is voted down, it would "would suggest that Democrats are more motivated in the Buckeye State than they were a year ago." Unmotivated Democratic voters contributed to the party's big loss in the 2010 midterm elections.

Gambling: Reuters' Edward McAllister explains that states are turning to gambling to raise money. Maine voters will decide whether or not to allow casinos and slot machines at two race tracks, while New Jersey voters consider undoing a federal ban on sports betting. That follows an expansion of gambling in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Illinois. Meanwhile, Minnesota lawmakers are looking at different gambling proposals to pay for a new football stadium. 

Booze: Washington voters are deciding whether to shut down state-owned liquor stores and allow private alcohol businesses. Costco has bankrolled this vote, Fox News reports, spending $22 million on the initiative, making it the most expensive one the state has ever had. Down in Georgia, 34 metro areas and one county are considering allowing booze to be sold on Sunday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Governor's races: Republicans Haley Barbour is expected to hang on as governor in Mississippi; and it's looking like Democrat Steve Beshear will remain in charge of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. 

Immigration: Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the Republican who crafted the controversial state law instructing cops to demand documentation from anyone they suspect could be an illegal immigrant, is facing a recall. Fox News says Pearce had a 3 to 1 fundraising advantage over his rival Jerry Lewis (also a Republican) but a local poll found them in a right race last week. Local news channel ABC 15 reports Pearce received campaign donations from 40 states. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.