Ballot Initiatives- Friend or Foe?

On November 4th millions of Americans will be walking into polling stations, ready to declare their preference for President. Many will also cast ballots for senators, representatives, and other party officials. Some however, will also be casting their votes on various measures, initiatives, and propositions.

In Colorado they will be deciding the fate of affirmative action:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a prohibition against discrimination by the state, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the state from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting…?

California voters will again be looking at gay marriage:

LIMIT ON MARRIAGE. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: The measure would have no fiscal effect on state or local governments. This is because there would be no change to the manner in which marriages are currently recognized by the state.

South Dakota residents will be voting on abortion:

An Act to Protect the Lives of Unborn Children, and the Interests and Health of Pregnant Mothers, by Prohibiting Abortions except in Cases where the Mothers Life or Health is at Risk, and in Cases of Rape and Incest.

Massachusetts residents get to choose if they want to pay taxes:

This proposed law would reduce the state personal income tax rate to 2.65% for all categories of taxable income for the tax year beginning on or after January 1, 2009, and would eliminate the tax for all tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2010.

And Oregon Residents may choose to replace English as Second Language(ESL) classes with English Immersion Classes:

The measure would limit the use of foreign language instruction in public schools to: 1 year for students in kindergarten to 4th grade. 1.5 years for 5th grade through 8th grade. 2 years for high school students. It would also prohibit ESL (English as Second Language) teaching programs for longer than the mandated time.

You may have noticed that every website I linked to above is opposed to the measures. This IS on purpose. Why? Because the reality of ballot initiatives is that by in large they represent the efforts of a small number of conservative citizens who seek to roll back basic civil liberties or otherwise hurt vulnerable populations in their state.

Why are ballot initiatives used? In states like California, where gay marriage is legal, it would be very difficult to have the legislature vote to revoke that right. The reason is that by in large the public supports gay marriage, and so the legislators support it. But, unhappy with these results, conservatives (often from out of state- as in the case in Colorado’s anti-affirmative action initiative), collect a few thousand signatures, and hope that higher conservative turnout at the polls will allow the general will of the public to be usurped.

Just take a look at these initiatives: anti-gay marriage, anti-affirmative action, anti-foreign language, anti-taxes, anti-abortion: they are all the work of conservatives bent on removing social protections, basic civil liberties, and in general, a just society.

Passage of any of these propositions will represent a loss for many. Gay couples in California will be in limbo again, and unable to marry, teens and others in South Dakota who realize they are not prepared to raise a child will be forced to carry the baby and give birth, minorities in Colorado protected from institutional discrimination will be vulnerable again, immigrant children in Oregon will have their ESL classes terminated on the governments terms- not when they are ready, and hosts of low income and vulnerable populations in Massachusetts will be negatively impacted if the state loses $12 billion annually in revenue because some decide they don’t want to be taxed any more.

Get the facts about ballot initiatives here, and find out what’s on the ballot in your state:


Otherwise, you might wake up to more than one nightmare on the 5th.



2 Responses

  1. Michigan was used as a test case for removing affirmative action–and it won handily, alas. The group sponsoring it has some pretty ugly customers.

    The “friends” of Ward Connerly are freaky. More about FAIR here:

    and they are covered well at the Southern Poverty Law Blog, too.

    Welcome to WordPress!

  2. thanks for the welcome!

    i watched ward connerly speak about this on CSPAN a week or two ago. it was truly disturbing…

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