Hot-button ballot measures offer something to rile up every voter
DENVER | This year’s Colorado ballot is loaded with high-profile initiatives on hot-button issues, the kind that tend to stir passions, mobilize voters and swing elections.
It’s even possible that the ballot — which includes measures on abortion, labor unions, education and affirmative action — could determine the outcome of the presidential contest in Colorado. But not probable, say political analysts.
Take abortion, for example. Plenty of pro-life voters are expected to turn out for Amendment 48, which would define a “ ‘person’ or ‘persons’ “ as any “human being from the moment of fertilization.”
In theory, this could be a boon for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
But the measure is also expected to attract at least as many pro-choice voters determined to vote against it, which would presumably help Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama.
“Those for the personhood amendment will certainly come out, but so will people opposed to it,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak. “In the end, I think they’ll cancel each other out.”
The Colorado ballot holds 18 measures this year, including 14 proposed constitutional amendments, the most in 96 years. Seven of those are labor-related measures, both for and against.
Three other amendments would either strip oil and gas companies of their tax credits or raise their taxes, depending on whose ads are on.
There’s even one proposal, Referendum O, that would make it more difficult to put initiatives on the ballot, which would seem to be an example of perfect timing.
All 18 measures combined, however, are unlikely to generate the same interest as this year’s presidential race, which remains too close to call in Colorado, say analysts.
“I think this is a high-profile race for president, and if someone’s not going to show up for Obama or McCain, they’re not going to turn out for some constitutional amendment,” said Denver political analyst Eric Sondermann. “Turnout is going to be generated by the presidential race.”
Democrats are hoping that the anti-labor measures, led by Amendment 47, the right-to-work measure, will energize the union vote, said Mr. Sondermann.
“The theory among some Democratic operatives I talk to is that the anti-labor measures are good for Democrats because they’ll motivate labor. Labor’s very motivated, and labor can spend money on get-out-the-vote,” said Mr. Sondermann. “I’m not sure it’s going to work that way, but that’s the speculation.”
Jon Caldara, who’s sponsoring one of the anti-labor measures, Amendment 49, which would prohibit government from collecting dues on behalf of unions and other groups, predicted that the plethora of union-related measures will blur the vision of many voters.
“The labor initiatives are big, but they’re also kind of inside baseball,” said Mr. Caldara, president of the free-market Independence Institute. “There are so many this year that I think people are confused. I think what’s bringing people out is this incredibly interesting presidential race.”
The tight Senate race between Democrat Rep. Mark Udall and Republican former Rep. Bob Schaffer to replace retiring Sen. Wayne Allard, a Republican, should also bring out voters, said analysts.
At the end of the day, however, nothing delivers voters like a close presidential contest.
“People are coming out predominantly to vote for president in a presidential year,” Mrs. Waak said. “That’s what delivers turnout, not ballot initiatives.”
Pro-life activists gather outside the Pepsi Center in Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention. Abor tion is one of the emotional issues appearing on the Colorado ballot.