S.D. Abortion Ban, Ariz. Gay Marriage Ban Fail
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
Arizona became the first state to reject a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage, while South Dakota voters refused to make their state a test case in the fight to outlaw abortion.
South Dakota voters pulled the plug on an attempt to challenge the landmark abortion case of Roe v. Wade , as citizens there overrode a law that would have banned abortion in that state. In a ballot campaign that drew nationwide attention and dollars, opponents of the ban succeeded in taking it off the books by a vote of 56 percent to 44 percent.
The gay marriage vote in Arizona is likely to capture national attention, even as seven more states on Election Day joined the 20 states that already had passed constitutional prohibitions on gay marriage.
Arizona refused to outlaw gay marriage by a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent. The vote is likely to spur debate about whether public opposition to same-sex unions is weakening since Massachusetts became the lone state to allow gays and lesbians to marry in May 2004.
Among the most contentious of the 205 measures on ballots in 37 states was a proposal on stem cell research in Missouri. The measure to write protections for stem cell research into the Missouri Constitution narrowly won, 51percent to 49 percent margin, according to the Missouri secretary of state.
Anti-tax activists lost campaigns to impose limits on state spending in Maine, Nebraska and Oregon through what are popularly called a Taxpayers' Bill of Rights.
Minimum wage hikes passed in six states — Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio. Likewise, voters in at least nine states passed ballot measures to limit government's power to condemn private land through eminent domain. But more controversial proposals to reimburse landowners for land-use restrictions failed in California, Idaho and Washington.
Here's a look at hotly contested measures on state ballots.
ABORTION: South Dakota lawmakers touched off a national tempest by passing a strict abortion ban aimed at setting up a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade , the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court landmark ruling legalizing abortion. South Dakota voters rejected that law, which would have made it a felony for anyone to help a woman end her pregnancy, except to save the life of the mother.
In Oregon and California, voters defeated measures that would have required doctors to notify a parent before performing an abortion on a minor. In both states, voters had previously rejected similar measures. Thirty-five states already have laws requireing parental involvement in a girl's abortion decision.
GAY MARRIAGE: Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin decided to amend their state constitutions to ban gay marriage. Arizona defeated the measure.
President Bush and other Republicans seized on a New Jersey court ruling released just two weeks before the election to rally conservatives in the final days of campaigning. The Garden State's high court said the state constitution required lawmakers to provide equal legal rights for gays, either through civil unions or same-sex marriage.
Twenty states already have adopted similar constitutional same-sex marriage bans; no state had ever rejected one.
In addition to a ban on gay marriage, Coloradoans rejected a separate bid to extend marital rights to same-sex couples through "domestic partnerships." See Stateline.org' s Backgrounder for a full rundown on the same-sex marriage issue.
MINIMUM WAGE: The citizens of Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio voted to increase the minimum wage in their states above the federally mandated $5.15 an hour. They will join 23 states that already have set their minimum wages higher than the federal level. Democrats favor wage hikes as a way to alleviate poverty, while some Republicans say government mandated wage increases hurt businesses and endanger jobs. With a Democratic majority just voted into the U.S. House of Representatives, a federal minimum wage increase is likely to be one of the first proposals considered by the new Congress.
SPENDING LIMITS: Maine, Nebraska and Oregon voters soundly rejected ballot measures that would cap increases in state spending.
Approval of the measures this year would have breathed new life into anti-tax crusaders' efforts to clamp down on state spending. Similar spending initiatives this year got booted off ballots in Michigan, Montana, Nevada and Oklahoma, primarily because of concerns about the validity of the signatures.
The measures were modeled after Colorado's landmark Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which was temporarily suspended in 2005 after voters decided the limits were cutting too deeply into education, transportation and other programs.
STEM CELLS: Missouri voters narrowly endorsed a measure that would ensure the legality of embryonic stem-cell research in the state, after several unsuccessful attempts by Missouri lawmakers to ban those studies. The Missouri secretary of state listed 51 percent of voters approving the initiative.
Supporters of the measure touted its potential for finding life-saving cures, as well as its economic benefits. Opponents called the research immoral, because it requires the destruction of human embryos. Since President Bush restricted funding for the research in 2001, six states have moved to support the science.
PROPERTY RIGHTS: Voters in 12 states decided whether to strengthen property rights, making the issue the most popular one on state ballots this year.
Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon and South Carolina rolled back governments' eminent domain powers by prohibiting the forced sale of land to private developers for economic development. Nevada must pass the measure again in 2008 for it to take effect. (Louisiana voters approved a similar measure in September.)
In related measures, California, Washington and Idaho voters refused to follow Oregon's 2004 example of requiring state and local governments to pay property owners whose land values were diminished by land-use restrictions. Arizona, however, approved a similar "regulatory takings" clause.
The Arizona, California and Idaho measures combined regulatory takings provisions with eminent domain questions.
The property rights backlash is a response to the Supreme Court's July 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London , which allowed a local government to raze homes to make way for an office and shopping center.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Michigan voters overwhelmingly decided to end affirmative action programs in college admissions and government hiring, but the initiative was immediately challenged in court by proponents of affirmative action. The University of Michigan also threatened to enter the legal fray. The issue became a political hot potato after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2003 to allow the University of Michigan to use race as a factor in admissions.
The Michigan proposal is based on a 1996 California measure that bans preferential treatment based on race and gender. Washington state voters also passed the measure in 1998, but the issue lost momentum when it failed to get on the Florida ballot in 2000. No state voted on it again until this year. The outcome in Michigan could influence whether the measure's backers attempt to take the issue to voters in other states.
SMOKING: Tobacco-related measures were on the ballot in eight states. Arizona, Ohio and Nevada voters chose a strict smoking ban and rejected a looser ban backed by Big Tobacco.
Arizona and South Dakota imposed higher cigarette taxes, while voters in Missouri and California rejected similar tax hikes. Florida and Idaho citizens decided to earmark funds from the national tobacco settlement toward designated causes.
GAMBLING: Questions on gaming were on the ballot in five states: Arkansas, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Ohio and South Dakota.
Ohioans defeated a question that would have allowed slots at race tracks and at two Cleveland-area facilities, while Rhode Island voters turned down a proposal to permit a tribal casino. Arkansas voted to allow charities to hold bingos. Nebraska voted against allowing video gambling, but in South Dakota where video gambling is now legal, residents chose to keep it.
ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Arizona and Colorado went forward with proposals meant to crack down on illegal immigration.
The most controversial, Arizona's Proposition 300, bars illegal immigrants from receiving day care funding or in-state college tuition. The other three ballot measures approved in Arizona deny undocumented immigrants bail if they're charged with a felony, prohibit them from receiving punitive damages in a civil lawsuit and make English the official language for all state business.
In Colorado, the public narrowly voted to prohibit employers from deducting the wages of illegal immigrants as an expense and directed the attorney general to sue the federal government over immigration enforcement
OTHER: Several one-of-a-kind measures generated interest but failed, including a measure to enter Arizona voters into a $1 million lottery; an attempt to let Massachusetts grocery stores sell wine; an effort to overhaul child custody rules in North Dakota; and a move to allow mourning dove hunting in Michigan.
Wisconsin voters approved a non-binding, advisory measure calling for reinstatement of the death penalty. As a result, the Legislature is likely to consider calling for the death penalty in first degree, intentional homicide convictions that are supported by DNA evidence.
Efforts to build roads and other basic infrastructure projects got a boost in California and Minnesota. Californians approved five separate bonding proposals that, taken together, will allow the state to borrow $42.7 billion to build roads, levees, parks, schools, university facilities and affordable housing. Minnesota voters decided to dedicate all of the revenue from the sales tax on vehicles toward transportation efforts; currently, only half of that money was spent on transportation.
One California measure that passed Nov. 7 already has been scaled back. California voters overwhelmingly backed "Jessica's Law," which bans sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks or schools. But a federal judge temporarily suspended part of the law Wednesday to make sure it is not applied retroactively to sex offenders who already live near parks or schools. A hearing to determine the measure's fate is scheduled for Nov. 27.
Among the 37 states to certify ballot measures this fall, Arizona had the heftiest ballot - with 19 questions. The next-longest list was in Colorado (with 14 measures), California (13), South Dakota (11) and Nevada and Oregon (both with 10). Louisiana voters weighed in on 13 ballot issues in the Sept. 13 primary and eight more yesterday.