Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cowboy Kate's referendum roundup

My girlfriend Kate reports on the various referenda that passed and failed yesterday:
I know people are all into the house and very exciting senate race, but more referendums were on the ballot yesterday than ever (205 propositions in 37 states). Here's what caught my attention:

The people of South Dakota didn't pass the ban on all abortions except those that save the life of the mom! Go people! Show the leadership they got to not run away with their own crazy conservative agenda. Tell 'em if you get raped you shouldn't have to have your rapist's baby. I am very very happy about that. And a shout out to the people of Rhode Island for voting to let people on parole and probation vote. Re-enfranchisement is good. Let's fold people back into society. People who vote are less likely to commit more crimes and more likely feel optimistic about their legit future. (Compare RI to, say, Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia, where, if you've ever committed a felony, you can never ever vote again as long as you live.)

In less good news, Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia joined Wisconsin in approving a Constitutional ban on same sex marriage (though at this point I think those results are still projected). Not surprising since 20 states have already approved the ban, but gay rights activists seemed to think they had a shot at countering the pattern in Wisconsin. This is not my favorite state at the moment. Wisc also voted to lift the statewide ban on the death penalty, which has been in place since 1850. So it seems this state was more progressive in 1851 than it was yesterday. Great.

Seriously I hate this gay marriage thing. Such a cheap trick to get votes...

Prop 87 failed in Cali (45-55). This would have put new 4 billion dollar tax on oil drillers in California and put the money towards consumer rebates on buying hybrid cars and other alternative fuel appliances, upping solar and wind power use and helpful stuff like that. Too bad. This referendum was famous for being a very expensive campaign. Both sides together spent 150 million trying to sway voters. Oh, and in Cali, voters struck down the measure saying you have to tell your parents you're getting an abortion if you're under 18. So your secret is safe with the state, which I personally approve of.

Nine states passed eminent domain measures which mean that the government can't seize your private property and sell it to other private companies. So that's good. And six states raised the minimum wage.

In Arizona, if you're an illegal immigrant and you commit a felony, now you don't get to post bail and you also can't get awarded money in a civil lawsuit, even if someone, say, comes up to you and beats you and kills your children with a club. You can't sue and win. On the other hand, it's still neck-to-neck if the state will ban same-sex marriages. Wait and see. My guess is if you're gay and illegal, get the fuck out of Arizona.

The great people Arkansas decided to allow charities to run bingo games and raffles--cute! But the state will not borrow $250 million for education. Boo. Arkansas kids will grow up to be some dumb bingo-playing fools.

The voters of Massachusetts voted to not let food stores sell wine. They made a statewide declaration against convenience.
She adds that Michigan voters rejected the use of affirmative action in public universities; hopefully this will not mean the complete elimination of affirmative action, but rather evolution into something that casts a wider net, and recognizes the changing nature of race and class in America.

One model is Jeb Bush's Florida school model (the greatest idea a Bush ever had), in which there are no racial quotas, but the top 10% (or similar number) of students from every public school in the state are guaranteed a spot in the state university system.

With some tweaking--like scholarships for all 10% and even distribution to the different state colleges--this can be just as helpful to minorities as affirmative action as we know it, and can have the added benefit of helping poor whites and Asians too. (It doesn't address gender disparity, but that seems no longer to be a problem in college admissions.)

An important benefit of a change like this is that social programs that all Americans pay for and receive--such as social security, police and fire departments, and the personal tax exemption--tend to be considered differently than programs that only some Americans receive, such as FDIC/Welfare, public school, and affirmative action.

Not only are the universal programs generally more popular, and run with better policy decisions, but they are seen as basic elements of American life without a trace of stigma. This helps them survive the vagarities of politics, keeps them from being gutted by Republicans, and demonstrates to voters that social-democratic policies can work.