What Referendum? How America voted on Constitutional Amendments Nov. 8th 2011

There may be a few political and cultural insights we can take away from odd-yeared elections but in many cases the news media looks for a referendum in each decision made by the public. I would argue that extremely low turnouts and awkwardly-worded Amendments can not be seen as an accurate bellwether for future elections in most cases. The exception are highly publicized or partisan initiatives. Though even in those cases the implications of any referendum can’t mean much past a state’s borders.  In Ohio, Democrats and unions are celebrating victory over Issue 2 and collective bargaining rights as a referendum on Republican Governor Kasich, while the right are claiming Ohioan’s rejection of a healthcare mandate as a referendum on Obama. In conservative Mississippi voters predictably supported “Voter ID” legislation and limits on eminent domain while rejecting an Amendment that would have established that life begins at conception. In Maine, voters opted to allow same day voter registration but also turned down two opportunities to expand gambling to pay for government services.

It seems the commonality that runs through these results (if we must indeed prescribe a referendum) is that while American’s may not have all the answers they are increasing skeptical that government is up to the challenge of fixing out problems.

More commentary on specific ballot initiatives:

In MIssissippi:

1 Definition of Personhood rejected by 57%. Even Republican Governor Hailey Barbour said he had issues with the language. It had no exception for rape or incest and would have effectively reversed Roe V. Wade in the state.  A group from Colorado who failed to get it passed there brought the referendum to Mississippi because it is considered the “most pro-life” state.

2 Voter ID which voters passed favorably with 62%.  Mississippi is now 1 of 8 states including Texas that require Photo ID to vote. This issue has a lot of room to grow as a ballot initiative, especially in battleground states where the legislature may not pass this type of legislation. One neutralizing proposition the left (or Democrats) could propose is one that passed tonight in Maine – same day voter registration. There is no excuse why voters can not walk into any voting booth on election day in their state and cast a ballot.

Texans voted on 10 Constitutional Amendments last night and showed little support for anything that sounded like an expansion of government.

Prop 1: Prop 1 Tax exemption for surviving spouse of veteran passed favorably with 82%. Not surprising Texas has a lot of veterans and a strong history of supporting the military.

Prop 3: Issue bonds to finance education loans to students passed less favorably with 55%. Interesting since student loan debt has become an issue with the Occupy Wall St. movement.

Prop 4: Prop 4 Permit county to issue bonds for development Rejected with 57%. Texans voting to reject government spending, even for development.

Prop 6: Prop 6 Gen Land Office distribute revenue for public education pass favorably with 60%. Texans vote shows they value education but their legislators have not found a way to properly fund it.


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