Updated 11 p.m.
Two votes to watch nationally - one with potential implications in the 2012 presidential race, and one controversial amendment that could be replicated in North Carolina.
First, in Ohio, voters will decide whether to affirm an anti-collective-bargaining law that Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law this year. If Democrats and unions get the "no" vote they want on Issue 2, it's a signal that Democrats are more engaged than they were in Ohio a year ago - a good sign for the Obama campaign in a swing state. If Republicans and businesses prevail in this vote, Obama has reason to worry about this important state. Yes, that's some serious reading of tea leaves, but it's what we have at this point.
(UPDATE, 9:53 p.m. - Ohio voters rejected the law, the AP reports.)
In Mississippi, voters will be deciding on an abortion amendment that could reappear in several states, including North Carolina.
The measure is known as "Personhood," and it would constitutionally define life in Mississippi as beginning at "the moment of fertilization." That would effectively provide anti-abortion advocates a way around Roe v. Wade by making abortion illegal, including for women who are victims of rape and incest.
The amendment is part of a national campaign brought by Personhood USA. A similar measure failed in Colorado, but other personhood amendments are in the works in Florida, Montana and Ohio. If those are successful, states with Republican majorities in legislatures, such as North Carolina, might follow.
It would be easy for pro-choice advocates to dismiss the Personhood law as yet another legal contortion by anti-abortion folks. But unlike laws that poke at the processes surrounding abortion - such as the ill-advised and recently blocked N.C. provision forcing women to look at an ultrasound of the fetus - this amendment speaks to the heart of the anti-abortion movement. A baby is a baby before it's born, the law says, and that simplicity is what advocates hope will bring success in Mississippi and other states.
Should it pass in Mississippi, however, a court challenge will certainly follow. Critics of the law say it would outlaw certain forms of birth control - most prominently the IUD and morning-after pill - and the law could be interpreted to also ban in vitro fertilization procedures because they results in unused fertilized eggs. Also, there are some thorny issues about women's health, such as what the amendment would allow when a pregnant woman needs chemotherapy.
Ultimately, the amendment presents a question that's simpler to ask than answer. The Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, discussed in oral arguments whether the unborn fetus should be considered a person with the protections of the 14th amendment. The court decided, ultimately, that the fetus was not - but a state personhood amendment would likely result in the court getting a chance to reconsider that basic issue.
Will "personhood" get that far? A poll this week from Public Policy Polling shows Mississippi voters split on the issue, but turnout on election day tends to lean conservative. We'll keep an eye on the vote.
Peter St. Onge