Election Day 2014: What’s at Stake?

Although you would never know it from the coverage of the mainstream media, a lot is at stake in the upcoming election. How much support or opposition the President has to implement his political agenda depends upon who controls the United States Congress. At the ballot box next week voters decide. Likewise thirty-six state governorships are in the balance this election. The election may also affect who makes a run at the White House in 2016.

Control of Congress and the Governors’ mansions also hold important implications for people of faith.  As recent government actions against pastors in Houston show, just as much is at stake at the local level. At all levels it is important to discuss whether a candidate will help stem the tide of government infringement upon religious liberty. It is also important to know whether they value human life at all stages.

In Tennessee, Colorado and North Dakota, voters will consider some especially important ballot measures concerning the value of human life.

Although in the heart of the Bible Belt, Tennessee is known as one of the easiest states in the nation to obtain an abortion. A ballot initiative known as Amendment 1, however, puts that reputation to the test. The initiative, Tennessee’s first statewide vote on abortion,  seeks to undo a state Supreme Court ruling that Tennessee’s constitution guarantees a right to abortion on demand. In essence, Amendment 1, Tennessee’s first statewide vote on abortion, hopes to undo the activist court’s ban on legislative actions protecting life in the womb.

The language in Amendment 1 simply states:

“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

While passage of the amendment will not overturn Roe v. Wade, it paves the way for the state legislature to protect unborn life through legislative restrictions on abortions.

Passage of Amendment 1 is still very much up in the air. While early voting began on October 15, polling on the issue has been sparse. The two major polls taken appear to suggest completely different outcomes. In May, Vanderbilt University released a poll that showed 70% of Tennesseans opposed the passage of a law that would empower state lawmakers to place additional restrictions on abortion. A little less than a month ago, however, the Family Research Council released a poll with far more optimistic results for proponents of Amendment 1. The FRC poll found that half of the respondents supported the ballot measure with the other half equally split on whether they opposed it or were undecided.

Polls aside, voters will ultimately choose whether unborn life in the womb is worthy of protection in Tennessee.

Voters in Colorado and North Dakota also face major issues on their statewide ballots this year. Both states will consider “personhood” amendments that provide state constitutional protections for unborn children.

Polling suggest the personhood amendment in Colorado is unlikely to garner enough votes at the ballot box to pass. Pro-life voters in Colorado nonetheless hope that a recent wave of momentum in a pro-life candidate’s race for the U.S. Senate might help push the amendment towards passage.

A better chance for passage of the North Dakota personhood amendment exists. Polling reveals that nearly half of likely voters support the proposed amendment. The results further suggest that to defeat the measure, nearly all undecided voters (currently around 17% of the sample) would have to vote against the amendment. Thus, North Dakota is positioned to join Missouri as the second state to constitutionally recognize that life begins at conception.

Finally, it is important to remember that local elections also impact how states and local municipalities treat religious liberty issues. Local ordinances and state laws increasingly utilize government power to infringe upon religious liberty. As recent headlines from Texas and Idaho show, sometimes the greatest battlefields of religious liberty take place at the state and local level. This year will prove no different…the stakes are incredibly high for freedom of religious conscience and for those who value human life at all stages.

Jordan Wilson is a graduate of Liberty University and serves as a contributing author for SLG Witness.