The Lonely Centrist

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ballot Issues: Campaign Finance Reform Takes Two on the Chin; Status Quo Prevails

If voters are terribly unhappy, they sure didn't have much desire to take things into their own hands last night with ballot issues.

California gets the most ink, but Ohio may be the most interesting.

Ohio: A bond issue passed narrowly (no "tax revolt"), but the big interest was elsewhere.

Four election "reforms," generally presented as a package, got trounced by 2-1 margins or better. Most interesting was Issue 3, which lost 67.2% to 32.8%. This was a proposal to add new campaign finance restrictions to the state constitution. Last year, the legislature raised the state contribution from $2500 to $10,000. This effort to roll it back to $2000, and to allow unions to spend funds from their general treasuries, was up with 60% in the last public polling, so the crushing size of the defeat is a stunner. We eagerly await the next Democracy 21/Campaign Legal Center press release about the public clamor for more campaign finance regulation. It seems that campaign finance regulation does well at the ballot box when there is no organized opposition, but whenever there is a serious opposition that makes the case to voters, it goes down to defeat, often by large margins.

Issue 4, a redistricting measure, lost 69.9% to 30.1%. A proposals to make absentee voting easier lost 63.4% to 36.6%. And what might be dubbed the "Anti-Blackwell Amendment," to eliminate the authority of the Secretary of State over elections in obvious "retaliation" for what some perceived as bias by GOP SecState Ken Blackwell in 2004, was defeated worst of all, by a 70.4% to 29.6% margin.

Efforts by Reform Ohio Now, which promoted the measures, to tie opponents to unpopular, scandal plagued Governor Bob Taft (approval rating of just 13%), failed. This suggests that the Democrats effort to beat the Republicans with the "ethics issue" may not be a wise 2006 strategy.

California: A tough night for Ahnuld. Three of the four amendments backed by the Governator were losing soundly: His signature issue, redistricting reform, was trailing 57-43%; and cap on state spending trailed 60-40; limits on teacher tenure was behind 53-47, and a proposal to limit union spending on campaigns was trailing narrowly, 50.7 to 49.3%. Assuming that narrow margin holds, we will eagerly await the next Democracy 21/Campaign Legal Center press release about the public clamor for more campaign finance regulation. Update: Final tally was 53-47 against.

Also trailing in California was a measure requiring parental notification before an abortion, by a narrow 50.9%-49.1% margin. Losing by more substantial margins were measures on utility regulation and drug discounts.

Maine: In a relatively close vote, Mainers defeat an effort to repeal a gay rights law.

Texas: Americans are not homophobic, but they're not fans of gay marriage either. Texas becomes the latest and 19th state to enact a ban by an overwhelming margin, with roughly 70% voting for it.

Together, it seems to me that Maine and Texas, different as they are, pretty well reflect where the American center is: tolerant but unwilling to provide a stamp of public approval.

Washington: Repeal of the state's gas tax appears to have failed. Again, voters appear right now to not much want to rock the boat - except where, as in Detroit, the boat rockers are already in office and can be sent packing

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