Ballot measures to spur turnout

Karl Rove didn’t miss a trick in his schemes to contrive a Bush victory for president. One tactic is ballot initiatives prohibiting gay marriage, with the goal of splitting Democrats and consolidating the right-wing Republican base. Such measures will appear on the ballot in 11 states including the presidential battlegrounds of Ohio, Michigan, Oregon and Arkansas.

However, this cynical move may be trumped by a number of outstanding campaigns for progressive ballot initiatives that have spurred voter registration and get-out-the vote efforts by those opposing the Bush agenda.

In Florida and Nevada, voter registration increased dramatically during massive petition drives for ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage by one dollar to $6.15, with future increases indexed to the cost of living. A measure for a living wage ordinance on the ballot in Kansas City, Mo., is also likely to bring voters to the polls.

In Colorado, Amendment 36 would allocate Electoral College votes based on the popular vote for president statewide. This “Make Your Vote Count” initiative replaces the winner-take-all system with proportional representation.

In Washington state, Initiative 297, which bans dumping of nuclear waste, has attracted a broad spectrum of support.

In Arizona, a large coalition has formed in opposition to Proposition 200, which prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving services or voting.

Progressive organizing around ballot questions goes beyond the presidential battleground states.

In California, a broad labor-faith-community coalition leads the opposition to Prop. 72, which would overturn the Health Insurance Act of 2003. The Act requires employers of 50 or more workers to provide health coverage, including 1 million currently uninsured California workers, with co-pays limited to 20 percent of premiums.

Prop. 66, Limitations on the “Three Strikes” law, allows re-sentencing for 65 percent of inmates whose second and third offenses were nonviolent.

In San Francisco, Prop. N calls for withdrawing U.S. military personnel from Iraq, and Prop. F allows all parents or guardians to vote in school board elections regardless of citizenship status.

— Joelle Fishman (joelle.fishman@pobox.com)