Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a ban on bilingual education, but Colorado voters were rejecting the same measure while voters in several states defeated ballot initiatives to decriminalize drugs.
With 54 percent of Massachusetts precincts reporting, the measure to mandate instruction in English only was winning by 71 percent to 29 percent.
But a similar measure in Colorado was failing, by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin, with nearly a third of the votes counted.
As has often been the case, most of the initiatives in yesterday's elections were in Western states, but unlike in the past, measures backed by liberal groups - not conservative ones - dominated the ballot. Citizen petition drives placed several initiatives, opposed by elected officials and law enforcement, on ballots.
Drug reform was a dominant theme, one which was soundly defeated yesterday in Ohio, Arizona and Nevada. All were designed to make it easier for adults to use marijuana and other illegal drugs, either through decriminalization or establishment of a state-run distribution system for medical users.
M. Dane Waters, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute, said the defeats of all the drug-reform initiatives was the "biggest surprise" of this election cycle.
"But this was the first time the DEA and the drug czar actively campaigned against these measures. That could have made the difference," he said last night.
Liberals also promoted an initiative on the Florida ballot, which would ban smoking in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants.
With 70 percent of precincts reporting, that measure was passing 70 percent to 30 percent, according to Mr. Waters.
Other initiatives backed by liberal groups included several in Oregon, which lost decisively, including:
*A measure to create a universal health care system for Oregon residents that was defeated 73 percent to 27 percent.
*A measure to require labeling of genetically modified foods sold in or distributed outside Oregon that failed 64 percent to 36 percent.
Amendments or propositions on the ballot in California and Colorado would allow eligible residents to register to vote and cast a ballot on Election Day. In Colorado, with 48 percent of precincts reporting, voters were rejecting Election Day registration, 62 percent to 38 percent.
In California, it was losing by exactly the same margin with 12 percent of vote recorded.
Peter Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, said it has been "somewhat disappointing" to see the decline in conservative-driven ballot measures this year.
"But the universe of useful referendum states is shrinking. ... It's just incredible what people have to go through to get on the ballot," he said yesterday.
Mr. Waters said the number of initiatives on the ballot during the current election cycle is down 30 percent from the 2000 elections.
A handful of conservative-backed issues were on state ballots, such as:
*A ban on same-sex marriage in Nevada, which was headed toward passage last night.
*Measures to eliminate the state income tax in Massachusetts, which would eliminate a $9 billion funding source that represents 40 percent of the state budget, and to eliminate sales taxes on food and medicine in Arkansas, depriving state and local governments of more than $200 million in revenue.