Voters Weigh In on State Proposals
Proposals to improve education dominated ballot measures Tuesday, but voters didn’t always agree on how that should be accomplished. South Carolina approved a lottery to finance education while Michigan voters rejected private school vouchers
Early returns in North Carolina showed likely approval for the state’s record $3.1 billion bond issue to improve higher education. With 5 percent of precincts reporting, the biggest bond issue in state history appeared headed to pass with 71 percent of voters in favor.
In Maine, gay rights protection looked set for approval, but a proposal to allow doctor-assisted suicide was too close to call. With 14 percent of precincts reporting, the suicide measure was running 50-50, while gay rights was leading with 54 percent.
New Jersey, the state that gave the nation Megan’s Law, approved putting the state’s sex-offender database online. With 10 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was drawing an overwhelming 80 percent support.
The measures were among more than 200 propositions on ballots in 42 states.
Virginia made hunting and fishing constitutionally protected rights. A fast-train ballot measure in Florida got up a good head of steam: With 41 percent of precincts reporting, a proposal to link the state’s five largest urban areas by high-speed rail, at a potential cost of billions of dollars, was leading 54 percent to 46 percent.
The South Carolina lottery was among some two-dozen statewide education proposals. It won handily, with 55 percent approval in 41 percent of precincts reporting.
Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges had staked his political future on the state lottery to increase education spending. Backers estimated the lottery would bring more than $416 million annually, with $150 million left for education after prizes and expenses are subtracted.
No Lottery 2000, the primary opposition group, said the state should not be running a game of chance and voters should be wary of approving something before they know how it will work.
According to exit polls, the Michigan voucher measure failed despite millions of dollars poured into campaign ads and the backing of a coalition of Roman Catholic churches and blacks worried about the quality of education in inner-city schools. No early returns were available.
Voucher opponents included Republican Gov. John Engler, teachers unions and school administrators.
The proposal would have offered vouchers worth an estimated $3,300 to any child living in a district where less than two-thirds of students graduate, whether or not the child was in public school.
Californians also weighed a voucher proposal, which would offer every schoolchild, poor or rich, a $4,000 private school voucher.
In Arkansas, voters were also deciding whether to allow a lottery, along with casinos and charity bingo. Proceeds of all three would finance education, including college scholarships.
In Virginia, the hunting rights proposal led 60 percent to 40 percent with 27 percent of precincts reporting.
In Alabama, with 10 percent of precincts reporting, voters favored lifting a 99-year-old ban on interracial marriage, which had long been unenforceable. Early returns showed the measure passing by 54 percent.
Residents of Ventura, Minn., recently incorporated under the name of Gov. Jesse Ventura, voted to recommend it be renamed St. Augusta. That was the name a priest gave the original hamlet in the 1800s.
Also on Tuesday, Connecticut voters weighed whether to abolish the state’s eight county sheriffs, jobs that date back to 1666.
The exit polls _ based on interviews with voters as they left precincts _ were conducted by Voter News Service, a partnership of The Associated Press and the ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC television networks.
Oregon voters decided whether to forbid encouragement, promotion or sanction of homosexuality in public school instruction, from kindergarten to community college.
That state’s Proposition 9 was one of four measures dealing with gay issues. Civil rights protection for gays and lesbians was on the Maine ballot. And after Vermont this year created same-sex civil unions, Nevada and Nebraska drafted ballot measures to define matrimony in their state constitutions as man-woman only. Nebraska’s measure also seeks to invalidate civil unions granted elsewhere.
Criminal justice figured in several propositions. Massachusetts voters decided whether to limit voting by incarcerated felons. School shootings in recent years prompted Colorado and Oregon measures calling for background checks on all buyers at gun shows. A California measure proposed treatment instead of jail for non-violent, minor drug offenses.
Other proposals around the nation sought to:
_ Set term limits for Nebraska state senators but end limits for county offices in New Mexico.
_ Allow taxpayer-funded campaigns in Missouri and Oregon.
_ Add fluoride to San Antonio’s water.
_ Rein in growth in Arizona and Colorado.
_ End bilingual education in Arizona.
_ Declare English Utah’s official language.
_ Allow every adult in Mendocino County, Calif., to own up to 25 marijuana plants.
_ Legalize marijuana in Alaska; make it legal for medicinal purposes in Colorado and Nevada.