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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

It's not just Obama's night: States consider a variety of ballot measures

The historic nature of yesterday's presidential election has rightfully cast a shadow over every lesser race this cycle. Yet, amid the hype and hope of one of the wildest and most stunning campaigns in recent memory, voters will be affected in ways large and small by the lesser-known ballot initiatives on state election slates across the country. Here, then, is a sample of the ballot initiatives we flagged as interesting, weird or noteworthy in some way — and how they fared.

California Proposition 8, Florida Amendment 2: This pair of ballot measures would amend their states' respective constitutions to ban gay marriage, which is the strongest step voters can take on the issue — courts cannot overturn that which is encoded in the state constitution. California's Prop 8 was the real highlight of the gay marriage battle, as California became the second state in the union to legalize same-sex unions by court order. As of press time, it appears both measures will pass. This is not surprising in Florida, where the measure had polled well, but is a bit of a surprise in California, where LGBT interest groups and donors from around the country had rallied to defeat the proposition. The amount of money spent on this proposition in California is a stunning $73 million — and a testament to what can happen when a high-profile culture war issue is fought about in a state with no contribution limits.

Colorado Amendment 48: The ultimate pro-life ballot measure, a "yes" vote here would amend the state's constitution to declare that "personhood" begins at the moment of conception. Not surprisingly, Colorado's voters did not line up in droves to declare fertilized eggs to be one and the same as a full-grown human being, and the measure was defeated soundly. If enacted, the measure's implications would seem to force a statewide ban on abortion, stem-cell research, the morning-after pill and some forms of contraception. Much more realistic (and in tune with the state) was South Dakota's Measure 11, which would ban abortion in all cases except for rape, incest and health of the mother. Two years ago, a similar initiative containing no exceptions was defeated soundly, so it is evident that pro-life activists learned from their previous defeat in the state, but it appears that South Dakota is more pro-choice than its representatives would indicate, for this too failed to pass.

The election of the first black president in U.S. history is an interesting prism through which to view Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action crusade. Connerly, a black professor at the University of California, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the practice in states across the country. His trademark tactic has been to circumvent legislatures and courts and take his case directly to the people, pushing ballot measures that would ban race-based preferences in academia and employment. This year is no different. Nebraska Initiative 424, Connerly's brainchild, passed with a clear majority. On the other hand, Colorado Ballot Initiative 46, which Connerly also pushed but over which Coloradans were sharply divided, was rejected by voters.

The Pacific Northwest will also remain the only region of the country in which it is legal to off yourself. Washington state has joined Oregon in permitting physician-assisted suicide. Washington Initiative 1,000 will allow terminally ill patients with less than six months to live the option of requesting and consuming a fatal combination of medications, allowing them a quick and painless death. The initiative's passage has dismayed pro-lifers and been a significant victory for the budding right-to-die movement.

It seems Montanans have a bigger issue with socialism in name than in practice — Montana Initiative 155, an ambitious plan to provide health insurance to every child in the state, passed overwhelmingly. The strength of the proposal, even in deep-red Montana, should be a signal to the upcoming Obama administration — when going for a national health care plan, start with the kids.

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