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Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Hate Amendment and Stem Cells

Posted by DavidNYC

On Tuesday, citizens in eleven states voted on ballot measures to outlaw gay marriage. All eleven passed, even in Oregon. But these were not the first such ballot initiatives - that dishonor belongs to the amendment passed in Missouri over the summer. Here is what I wrote at the time:

As you may know, the state of Missouri voted this week to amend its state constitution to explicitly prohibit gay marriage. (I'm personally of the opinion that these kinds of laws will ultimately run afoul of the federal Constitution's full faith and credit clause, particularly as it relates to the issue of gay divorce - but that's neither here nor there for the purposes of this blog.) What's especially distressing - beyond the actual vote - is the fact that turnout was up dramatically. Considering this was an August primary, I'm amazed that 41% of voters came out (when the usual range is 15% to 25%).

This becomes a real problem because similar measures are on the ballot in other swing states this fall: Arkansas, Michigan, Oregon and, yes, Ohio. Everyone expects the vote in Ohio to be especially close this year. I'll be beside myself if we lose that state because hatred and fear drive record numbers of voters to the polls to vote for an abomination of an amendment - and pull the lever for George Bush while they're at it. The Missouri turnout is really troubling. This whole thing could wind up being a big sleeper issue for the GOP.

Well, now, of course, I am beside myself. Some people speculated that the big turnout for the MO anti-gay amendment was due to the contested Dem gubernatorial primary, but the numbers, in my view, didn't support that.

To be fair, I have yet to see any conclusive evidence that these various ballot measures - particularly the one in Ohio - had an effect on the presidential results. (And after all, Bush did better this time versus 2000 in tons of states which had no such initiative on the ballot.) But they certainly did not hurt Bush.

Though I identified this as a potential "sleeper issue" for the Republicans back in August, at the time, I didn't have any ideas as to how we might respond directly. But Nick Confessore over at TAPPED has an answer: We need to promote ballot initiatives that will help our turnout. Nick suggest that measures to require state funding for stem cell research would be one such possible avenue.

Unfortunately for us, the only place where stem cells were on the ballot was California, which Kerry won handily. But it was a good issue - even the Governator supported it - and it passed by an 18% margin. I'd like to see this measure in place in all the states where we there are vulnerable Senate seats (on both sides) in 2006, as a trial run.

Atrios is encouraging his readers to think of other possible ballot measures that might help our turnout. Do you guys have any ideas?

UPDATE: Atrios has a brilliant idea (from a political, not a policy, point of view), though it's in the realm of legislation, not ballot initiatives: The Tax Fairness Act. I wonder if there is a way to spin this into a ballot measure somehow.

Posted at 01:10 PM in General | Technorati


How about an initiative to permanently ban Ralph Nader from running for president?

Posted by: Dale at November 4, 2004 04:14 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

How about protection of open space. In my town we voted several years ago on a referendum to buy open space land in town. It passed with a 3 to 1 margin. Although it's not a top issue for many, I think people are in favor of open space and a clean environment, and are willing to pay for it. Or a measure proposing a park. The more congested we get, the more people like such ideas.

Posted by: Mary at November 4, 2004 04:43 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mary said;

"How about protection of open space. In my town we voted several years ago on a referendum to buy open space land in town. It passed with a 3 to 1 margin. Although it's not a top issue for many, I think people are in favor of open space and a clean environment, and are willing to pay for it. Or a measure proposing a park. The more congested we get, the more people like such ideas"

Mary, it seems to me that Alaska National Wildlife Reserve is designated national park status. Now, when you hear the Repubs and Dubya speak of "National Energy Policy", what do you think they are talking about? I believe the Senate will pass a bill within 6 months opening up ANWR to the big oil companies for exploration. After all, Mary, we "gotta get out from under the dependence of foreign oil." To accomplish that, the Bush admin and the moral absolutists in the Congress will not promote conservation. Oh no!! The "good Christian soldiers" will promote "domestic exploration." After all, we couldn't dare ask the "moral majority" to consider trading in their SUV's and Ford pick-ups, and cut back on their 6 times weekly MacDonald's consumption in favor of "greener" choices. I don't believe Jesus would approve of that! After all, I have it on good authority that Jesus would drive a Hummer. Now, I ask you Mary, could Jesus be wrong??? HUH???? That sounds like commie talk!! What, are you a fan of Bin Laden's or somethin'???

Posted by: bigguy at November 4, 2004 04:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mary, I think that's a great idea. I think all manner of ideas pertaining to urban sprawl could be helpful. Of course, anything that restricts development will be vigorously opposed by big businesses.

Posted by: DavidNYC at November 4, 2004 05:00 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The most important ballot initiative would be stripping the state legislatures of the power to designate nationwide representative districts and putting the power in nonpartisan bodies that are appointed in a bipartisan way. It's hard to argue against that, provided the means of appointment are sufficiently difficult to tamper with. It works well in Iowa where no candidate got more than 63 percent; compare with PA which has several unopposed House candidates and several candidates winning 80 and 90 percent of the vote.

We would see a much more vital House of Representatives then.

Posted by: PAVoter at November 4, 2004 05:01 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

PAVoter - another good one.

Posted by: DavidNYC at November 4, 2004 05:08 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

What about a ballot initiative which would split a state's electoral votes among the candidates based on the popular vote? I figure after the 2000 election, it would seem like Democrats would care about that one. Obviously we wouldn't be able to have it take effect the year it's passed, like in Colorado, otherwise it would bring Republicans out in droves. But we know legislatures won't pass such legislation; let's bring it to the people.

BTW, I didn't write that crack about Nader at the top.

Posted by: The REAL Dale at November 4, 2004 05:29 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Dale, (REAL) one, I really like that idea -- at least in part on an emotional basis. Despite this past campaign's revitalization of the common person (thanks, Howard Dean), which I felt quite clearly, the results of this election really did make me feel that, because of the electoral structure, my vote doesn't matter. A re-allocation would be a nice step towards renewed enfranchisement, and might get us out of gerrymandering issues.

What about a national election initiative? As much as I hate to think about nationalizing anything, I've been won over to the idea by the election protection training guy who talked about how the disparities in rules lead to disenfranchisement where it shouldn't happen.

I do feel like I'm in the McCarthy era today, but maybe it will cause me to write great literature.

Posted by: shimamoto at November 4, 2004 07:09 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

A bit off topic, but is there any possibility of Puerto Rico becoming a state? I know they vote every so many years on whether or not to join the Union. The island is heavily Democratic, and would probably be worth 6 or 7 automatic EVs for whomever the Democratic candidate happens to be.

Posted by: pepe at November 4, 2004 07:12 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The issue is whether Congress would admit Puerto Rico. And because PR would be be so Democratic, the GOP won't allow it.

Posted by: DavidNYC at November 4, 2004 07:14 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Puerto Rico either needs to become a state or an independent country. We can't keep telling them that they have no say in our politics, and yet we can bomb their islands and draft their young men. Although they don't have to pay taxes under the current system. Hmm. Sucks for us. But something needs to be done.

Posted by: Dale at November 4, 2004 07:19 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

That's very true, DavidNYC. This current Congress would never vote to admit a state that would be so unequivocally Democratic.

Posted by: pepe at November 4, 2004 07:35 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Its a shame that Congress didn't admit Puerto Rico when Congress was more democratic ..

This is something that Dems can probably exploit with Puerto Rican groups in the mainland US. If Puerto Rico votes for statehood in some local referendum, if pushed by Puerto Ricans in the US, the drumbeat would probably force Congress to take some action -- not real statehood, but maybe some changes.

Posted by: erg at November 4, 2004 07:50 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Just get ready for the stem cell ballot initiative to backfire in anywhere other than the coasts. You are now entering the ground of the "moral issues". Stem cells are dismantled dead babies in these states. Get ready for an unexpected neo-con firestorm at the polls over that one.

Posted by: Tom at November 4, 2004 08:54 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Tom -- to clarify, neo-cons are liberals on social ideas, conservative on economic and especially foreign policy issues. Many used to be liberals. Neocons do not generally oppose abortion

The Republican coalition this time was a mix: religious evangelicals, suburban fiscal conservatives who voted pocketbook, security moms and dads and so on. This coalition can be broken.

Posted by: erg at November 4, 2004 09:09 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I don't think Puerto Rico will want to become a state. If they choose to, the Republican Congress will be caught between a rock and a hard place. It has to either create a Democratic stronghold or alienate the hispanic vote. If Puerto Rico wants to become a state, and Republicans block it, I can already see the ads: "Why do Republicans insist on taking away rights from Puerto Ricans?" and stuff like that. My guess is they would admit Puerto Rico as a state and try and spin it and use it in a way to get more hispanic voters for them.

Posted by: Sam at November 4, 2004 10:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Stem cells are dismantled dead babies in these states.

Disagree. There is unquestionably a spread between those who oppose abortion and those who oppose stem cell research (ie, the former group is bigger than the latter). Also, I am not suggesting we put this on the ballot in North Dakota, but rather in Florida, etc.

Posted by: DavidNYC at November 5, 2004 12:07 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Stem cell issue does not work everywhere. Kerry lost NM because hispanics did not like stem cell research, abortion and gay issues but Kerry's team obviously missed it completely and Richardson did not see it either. Richardson could have helped by talking to these groups but he did not.

Bush received 38% of hispanic votes in NM.

Posted by: pat at November 5, 2004 01:38 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think an overriding act like the tax fairness act wouldn't work. It's too sweeping and might tick off the redstate voters. No one likes to be called a leech en-masse. But if we can find a program that's an obvious boondogle or has passed its usefulness. we might be able to make headway.

But what if we look at R's that are vulnerable in Blue states and those red states that are a bit more sensible, Like NM we could cull off that coalition.
Find a wedge and drive it through the middle like a stake through a vampire. Get some of the fiscal conservatives but social liberals back to our side. Now think of a program that benefits only the deep south but not the plains or mountan west states. Now when Bush submits a Tax cut, don't argue we can't afford it. Argue that fiscal discipline requires a bit of cutting say OF THAT GIANT FUND SUCKING BOONDOGLE OF A PROGRAM. It would be preferable to have the program be in Frist's back yard You know Frist's got no choice. He's gotta try and save it, otherwise Lamar will be in trouble come reelection time. And when they put the screws to the coalition. We've got em. And if he doesn't save it, well that saves some of our tax dollars. .
Well my so-called conservative republican opponent here in New Mexico had a golden opportunity to cut fat from the budget that doesn't even benefit New Mexico and didn't act on it. So much for his service to the taxpayers of our fine state. And we get it out there. Then, we think of another one.
I can think of the first one right off the bat. TVA. It was originally done to help develop the south but it doesn't need it any more. Privatize it. I'm not really for slashing good programs but if that's what red staters want, that's what they get right? And TVA is a pit these days. make em pay full price for their power just like the rest of us. Why should they get cheap power on our dime?

Posted by: Joe at November 5, 2004 04:05 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I love both the idea fo focussing on ballot initiatives and nixing most of the TVA -- I read how much they waste building highways to nowhere where I used to live, in eastern Kentucky/West Virginia. Apparently Kennedy chose to keep focussing there 'cause the poor folks was white. As I said earlier, mostly blue states are picking up the tab for govt spending. Maybe the States Tax Equity Bill could be passed -- states' rights!

One big problem in msot states is transit money -- its known the CDOT, the CO Dept of transit, spends more money in non-metro areas than in the metro Denver area, even though the metro picks up the tab in taxes. Call this the "transit tax fairness act", put it on the ballot. I bet a bunch of rural folks would even vote for it because they're so convinced their money is being wasted by minorities and liberals in the metro area. It'd serve them right!

I agree absolutely with PAVoter, we need to stop the partisan redistricting that allowsd far-right, deficit-spending idiots to control Congress. Our Congress turns over less than the Soviet parliament did. So far, IA and I think one other state do non-partisan redistricting so the precedent is there. I'd love to see us set a goal that by 2010, a majority of states would have passed such ballot initiatives. Contact Commons Cause, an electoral reform group started by Nader himself, and let them know this is top prioritiy.

I thought also gay union initiatives -- while polls in these issues are unreliable because once people get emotional they may change, a majority, even 2/3 of Americans, favor either unions or marriage -- only 35% want no legal recognition of gay marriage. The initiative would probably have to be worded to right out say union is not marriage, which I know disppoints some folks, but that's the best way...

In Colorado, we had narrower-than-expected success with a bill requiring most utlities to go to 10% renewable energy by 2015 -- its a start and would make the technology marketable.

Finally, one that I like is the Instant Runoff, allowing people to vote for both a first and second choice on their ballot (i.e. Badnarik-Kerry or Nader-Gore or Perot-Bush). A bit hard for most people to understand but in a state like Oregon, where libertarians and greens can play spoiler, it might be popular.

Any thoughts?

Posted by: Marc at November 5, 2004 11:36 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

How about state measures funding research and implementation of alternative energy sources? In Ohio, that could be "clean coal", in Iowa, biomass, in New Mexico, solar, in Oregon, wind and non-dammed hydro. Funded by issuing bonds, or voluntary donation checkbox on tax returns.

As far as stemcells are concerned, we might get around religious objections if we collected small samples of umbilical stemcells at the time of birth. Some people already do cord stemcell banking, my nephew had that done for his child, but for the majority of people it's too speculate and expensive. I'll look into whether that's a viable idea for stemcell research, and get back to y'all in a few days.

Posted by: Katherine at November 5, 2004 11:42 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Let's not play with ballot intiatives too much unless they are popular topics that have a difficult time getting any where in the legislatures AND there is a real reason to press for it now. (For example, there is no real reason to press for a ban on gay marriage unless there is a real threat that it will be forced upon you otherwise.)

Don't use the ballot intiative process just to get people into the polls. I guess, I would advocate finding Dem friendly issues that are popular with the general public. Target real issues that can't be solved by other methods.

Posted by: Dan Hogan at November 5, 2004 03:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Don't use the ballot intiative process just to get people into the polls.

Why not? The GOP does this, and I'm pretty convinced that our failure to do so hurt us this year. I'm not saying we would have won otherwise, but we can't ignore this avenue.

Posted by: DavidNYC at November 5, 2004 05:52 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It seems that a lot of the proposed initiatives here are rather controversial and probably likely to be more poison for Democrats.

What about a ballot initiative to require all voting machines in the state to include a paper trail? That strikes me as something that could be passed in many states.

Posted by: Ben at November 5, 2004 05:56 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I live in Oregon, which has vote-by-mail. God, it's convenient. When the ballot arrives, grab it and the voter's guide, mark the thing, put it in the envelope, and put it out for the mailman, or put it in a mailbox.

It also leads to tremendous turnouts. We had over 80% turnout in Oregon. It's good for enlisting participation in democracy, and it's got a built-in paper trail. How about we float a vote-by-mail ballot initiative?

Posted by: Katherine at November 5, 2004 06:15 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I like the vote-by-mail initiative, but doesn't that open you up to fraud? How secure is absentee and vote-by-mail? Does anyone have any data on this?

Posted by: Sam at November 5, 2004 10:59 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm still uncomfortable with ballot initiatives just to get people to the polls even if the Republicans do it too. I've never liked the "they're worse than we are" defense. This is especially true if you want to engage members of the general public who have never really taken part in politics in the past.

Having said that, I really like the ideas in the last couple of posts. Requiring paper trails or vote-by-mail (if fraud can be prevented) would be issues that everyone could get behind and even those that may not like them wouldn't be offended by them. What about initiatives requiring a certian number of machines per registered voter? New methods for non-partisan redistricting after the 2010 Census?

Posted by: Dan Hogan at November 8, 2004 02:42 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment