There are big races on Mississippi's Nov. 8 ballot. But in some ways, ballot initiatives that could change the state Constitution would have the most impact.
Among those is a proposal to reform the use of eminent domain, the taking of private land by the government for public use, such as roads and schools, without the land owner's approval. The land owner, however, must be paid for the value of the land.
While this is legal, a U.S. Supreme Court case allows the government to take land for private use as well, such as economic development.
Mississippians have the chance to modify state law about eminent domain. Supporters of Initiative 31 want to prohibit use of it for private purposes.
"We realize there needs to be roads, and schools, and highways, and all those things that are true public use," said Randy Knight, president of Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation at a Meridian news conference Tuesday. "We realize they have to go on, but to take your land and give it to someone else to run a business, we don't think that's right."
"I'm not against eminent domain for what it's designed for, public schools, roads, parks, things like that. But to transfer it to another individual for private use or for profit is totally against my belief," said Max Anderson, a supporter of Initiative 31. "It should only be done between a willing seller and a willing buyer."
Those in opposition of Initiative 31 say the use of eminent domain to obtain private land for economic development has rarely happened in Mississippi history.
"This whole concept of using eminent domain for business development has been used once in the last eight years in the state of Mississippi," said Leland Speed, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority and an opponent of Initiative 31. "We're not running up and down the road taking people's property, for crying out loud. Once. It has been used five times in 22 years since the original legislation was passed."
For more information on Initiative 31, you may visit the Mississippi secretary of state's website. A link is provided below.
Here's what the question will look like on your ballot next Tuesday: "Should government be prohibited from taking private property by eminent domain and then transferring it to other persons?" You may vote yes or no.