Gay marriage, right to hunt among November U.S. ballot initiatives
Much of the attention has been focused on the attempts to ban gay marriage in California and Florida, which we have written about elsewhere.
Similar initiatives in 2004 were seen as crucial to President George W. Bush’s re-election victory as they energized the Republican Party’s conservative evangelical base. Propositions are initiated locally people who collect enough signatures to have them put on the ballot. If passed by voters they carry the force of law.
Ballotwatch, which is part of the Initiative & Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California, released a preview Thursday of the initiatives that will coincide with this year’s presidential battle between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.
It said that as of early August, voters in 30 states are set to decide on 112 ballot propositions and the number is likely to grow as several states are still verifying signatures and some legislatures are considering additional measures. (In 2004 there were 162 propositions and 204 in the 2006 mid-term elections).
“The big story for ballot propositions this year is the surge of social issues. The tax and spending issues that normally dominate initiatives and referendums are taking a back seat to a diverse collection of social issues,” it says in its report.
These also include an anti-abortion rights measure in South Dakota and attempts to roll back affirmative action in Colorado, which will keep the issue of race on the boil.
Animal rights and welfare issues have also emerged in a big way this year.
In Oklahoma, State Question 742 will seek to establish a state constitutional right to hunt and fish — a “pre-emptive” strike against the animal rights crowd.
Given Obama’s famous comments about rural voters clinging to their guns, the measure is likely to benefit McCain, though Oklahoma is already pretty solidly Republican.
In Alaska, ballot measure 2 will ask voters to ban the aerial hunting of bears, wolves and wolverines — a measure sure to excite both sides of the issue. (And shock a lot of people who don’t realize that you can shoot wolves from planes?)
And in Massachusetts, voters will be asked to decriminalize marijuana.
The ballot measures offer a good look at the intersect of politics and culture in America — and just how polarized society is.
Photo credit: Top Reuters/Erin Siegel (Couple after marriage in June); Middle Reuters/Keith Bedford (Hunters in December); and Bottom Reuters/Ho New (Wolves in February)