Roundup: State Ballot Initiatives Speak to Voters' Values

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Across the country, many voters will decide the fate of significant social issues in their state on Tuesday, with supporters and critics of each measure saying that the proposals speak to the nation's "values."

"I think we're really living in a time when people who do care what's morally right and morally wrong are trying to do their part to assist," Rev. Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, told Cybercast News Service. "So they're voting, and they're changing laws to meet the need of the day."

Eleven states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon and South Carolina) have measures to restrict the use of eminent domain in converting private property for public use in light of the Kelo V. New London Supreme Court decision last year.

The definition of marriage is another key issue this election. Since 2004, 16 states have codified its meaning as a union between one man and one woman. Eight more states will have the issue on the ballot on Tuesday: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

According to a Newsweek poll conducted last week, 24 percent of Americans supported full marriage rights for homosexual couples, 40 percent favored no legal recognition and 26 percent favored civil unions.

Tobacco taxes, marijuana possession and limits on smoking in public will be on the ballot in seven states.

Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio will vote on whether or not to raise the minimum wage.

Arizona has several measures dealing with illegal immigration, and Michigan has one to end affirmative action. South Dakota will see the fate of its ban on abortions, and Missouri has an initiative to allow stem cell research.

The Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California has compiled a list of ballot initiatives in this election by state.

"A day doesn't go by without us having to make moral judgments of some kind," added Sheldon.

"I think most of these are going to pass," he said. "All of these are issues that will drive people who do believe that values are important in the public square to the polls."

"I think that [in] 2006, if you look at all those issues, they offer a choice for voters about what they want their government to be, how they want it to function and what their government means in their everyday lives," Oliver Griswold, communications director for the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, told Cybercast News Service.

"Should government offer workers a fair wage, should it veer into your private life or should it require taxpayers to pay their fellow citizens to follow land use regulations? It really comes down to some core functions of government," Griswold said.

"I think that in 2004, we came out of the election talking about 'values voters' when from a progressive perspective, those values were not American values. They tried to copyright values as a term, but I think their efforts are falling apart," he added.

"Pocketbook issues and values issues are one and the same," Griswold stated. "The minimum wage is a 'national values issue.' It gets to the heart of how the American economy works for everybody."

Griswold noted that he believes this election will see a "rejection of the scapegoating and dividing that is inherent in these [marriage] initiatives."

"In the wake of Katrina and corruption scandals, I think you are seeing a swing towards responsible government, he said.

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