When Voters Are the Legislators

By Welch, Aimee | Insight on the News, December 11, 2000 | Go to article overview

When Voters Are the Legislators


Welch, Aimee, Insight on the News


On Election Day, voters bypassed legislatures and decided many controversial issues themselves through statewide referenda. But is direct democracy good for the country?

Through votes on some 200 ballot measures in 42 states, new state and local policies on many of this year's hottest political issues were weighed in the balance of direct democracy on election night.

About 70 percent of voters in Colorado and 60 percent of voters in Oregon voted to approve measures requiring background checks for all gun buyers at gun shows despite hefty opposition by the heavyweight National Rifle Association (NRA) in defense of the Second Amendment. Gun-control proponents outspent the NRA and made an emotional appeal to Colorado voters with the story of a gun that was used last year in the Columbine High School tragedy in Littleton, Colo., that left 13 dead. The teen-ager who acquired the weapon said she might not have bought it had she been subject to more rigorous scrutiny. Gun-control advocates proclaimed their victories to be a clear message to policymakers that the debate on gun control has changed dramatically.

Conservative groups, however, took the upper hand at the ballot box when it came to advancing their positions on proposals concerning gay and lesbian rights and same-sex marriages. A proposal to expand gay rights in Maine went down 51 to 49 percent. In both Nebraska and Nevada voters passed propositions ruling out same-sex marriages 70 to 30 percent. Oregon narrowly prohibited instruction in schools promoting a gay lifestyle (see "Social Measures Do Well on Ballot").

Measures proposing reforms to the war on drugs met with mixed results. A move to legalize the use of hemp and marijuana in Alaska was defeated by a ratio of about 3 to 2. But international financier George Soros and his partners, University of Phoenix founder John Sperling and auto-insurance magnate Peter Lewis, bankrolled campaigns for six "drug-war-reform" measures around the country, winning all but one. In California they successfully cultivated support for a sweeping measure mandating treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent first and second offenses for drug possession. Some 60 percent of voters favored the measure, which proponents claim will save taxpayers $150 million in incarceration costs each year and, perhaps, foreclose the need to build more prisons in the immediate future.

In Utah and Oregon restrictions on police acquisitions of proceeds from drug-related forfeitures passed, and in Colorado and Nevada proposals legalized "medical marijuana."

The public response to gambling issues also was mixed. South Carolina approved a state lottery for education funding with Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges -- who won office two years ago running on a pro-lottery platform -- leading the way. Arkansas voters, led by conservative GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee -- who has compared states that use lotteries to fill their coffers to "pimps" -- soundly rejected lotteries, casinos and even charity bingo. South Dakota voted by a narrow margin not to abolish its state-run video lottery game, and Massachusetts held on to its greyhound racing.

"There's been this perception for years that the initiative process was virtually controlled by conservative groups. Most of the issues that were on this ballot were conservative issues. But if you look at the 100-year history of the initiative process, liberals and conservatives have used it equally" says M. Dane Waters, president of the Washington-based Initiative and Referendum Institute. "Conservatives have probably had an edge in the last decade, but this election cycle it was the liberal groups who fared best. Funding for public education was the big winner, and liberals also did well on gun control. They did take hits on environmental measures, but overall they got what they wanted passed and did a good job of defeating what they didn't want passed."

Nowhere was that more clearly the case than on the ballot proposals to provide school vouchers to students in Michigan and California. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

When Voters Are the Legislators
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.