Third Party & Independents Archives

The Role of Ballot Initiatives

Ballot initiatives are often credited for the reelection of George Bush Jr. in 2004. I think that may be true, but I also think ballot initiatives have the power to bring both sides to the polls - supporters and those that want to see the change defeated. These thoughts led me to look at the potential role of ballot initiatives this year. Which close elections may be influenced by these side issues? What about states without a close election - will the issues be saved for potential impact in 2008?

The closest elections are reported to be New Jersey, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Montana.

New Jersey, the closest race, shows that this ballot initiative theory has flaws. There are no partisan ballot initiatives there... Every state has different rules about getting initiatives on the ballot though, so there may still be a point to prove.

As I continue, one thing that I notice is that the Democrats have learned from the past and there are ballot initiatives to appeal to their base on some of the state ballots. In Missouri and Montana, there is a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. Missouri also has a ballot initiative about stem cell research.

The Republicans are still using the marriage issue. Both Tennessee and Virginia have the definition of marriage on their ballots.

The next closest races are Arizona and Nevada. Both have initiatives about the minimum wage. Arizona also has marriage on their ballot.

At first, I think the media is right about this and the strategy is continuing in this election. Then I look at the other states. Colorado and Ohio both have minimum wage on the ballot. Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Colorado have marriage. California and Oregon have amendments related to abortion.

Maybe there isn’t a coordinated effort by the national political apparatus? Maybe it really is about individuals and groups that care about an issue and want to see it change?

Then again, Florida deferred their marriage amendment to 2008. Maybe they couldn’t get the signatures? Maybe they made a calculated decision because Katherine Harris can't win and it’s better to save the amendment for a closer election?

I see manipulation and strategy everywhere I look, but I don’t know if I’m right. Even if I am right, maybe it's just the smart thing to do, not something I need to be cynical about… Whether I support an amendment or I want to see it defeated – it will bring me out to vote. What do you think? Is this a real factor in the elections or am I reading too much into this?


Posted by Christine at October 29, 2006 11:30 PM
Comment #191420

It’s not a ballot initiative, but it may as well be…

If the last month has taught us anything about the Republican Party, it is that homophobia is campaign strategy, not conviction. Congressmen who trust their careers to gay staffers vote for laws to enshrine second-class citizenship for gays in the Constitution. Gay appointees and their partners are treated as married people at official ceremonies and social gatherings. Then whenever an election rolls around, the whole team pretends it’s on a mission to save America from gay marriage.

Mr. Bush and his faithful acolytes seem perfectly willing to stoke fears that create division and sorrow in a country that doesn’t need any more of either. The president has just a little more than two years left in office. You’d think that for once he’d want to consider devoting his time to making things better instead of worse.

Is this just another lie on the part of the president? You be the judge, but I don’t know how I can square what he’s saying now with this…

Posted by: Max at October 30, 2006 8:38 AM
Comment #191519

This NYTimes graphic lists the ways voters can be disenfranchised:

Posted by: Max at October 30, 2006 3:25 PM
Comment #191554

Christine, ballot initiatives will play a huge role. But, not as huge as in the last 3 elections, as the war in Iraq and the referendum on Bush are trumping many local initiatives. Also, many local initiatives are more germane to local and state candidates than to national congressional candidates. So, while they are a powerful force, they won’t be as powerful in this mid-term election for Congress as previously.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 30, 2006 5:15 PM
Comment #191562

David - I don’t know if I agree that Iraq and referendum on Bush is enough. I do agree it should be.
This mid-term election is very important as the Republicans have reinforced their point from more than a decade ago that when one party has a monopoly of all branches, it is not good for our country as it leads to excess…
Voluntary suspension of checks and balances, silence despite convictions due to party alliances, out of control spending…. While I’m against it, it seems that these may be reasons for some wanting to keep the power. These people will probably overlook what upsets them in hopes of getting what they want.

Max - I don’t know if I want the tangent this might bring, but I’m with you. I really have no idea why people get energized about that at all - there are no victims, no one is trying to convert anyone… Everyone needs to just take care of their own marriage and society will be better off.


Posted by: Christine at October 30, 2006 5:54 PM
Comment #191618

Enough for what, Christine? To significantly reduce the number of incumbents elected? Or enough to shift congressional power to the Democrats?

Lowering the incumbency rate is the prize. Switching party control does nothing to change the corruption, bribes, and influence of wealth on legislation.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 30, 2006 8:12 PM
Comment #191632

David - I agree with you in principle, but I think it’s hard to get nominated by the political machine without becoming somewhat like the incumbents.
I like some of the new, non-political candidates but I don’t think that’s what every non-incumbent is.
For now, I’d be happy to have checks and balances back…


Posted by: Christine at October 30, 2006 8:58 PM
Comment #191717

Christine, agreed. It is a good beginning, but, only a beginning.

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 31, 2006 1:28 AM
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