Hot-but­ton bal­lot mea­sures of­fer some­thing to rile up ev­ery voter

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARDSON

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.

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