Conservative Scorecard 2008: Initiative and Referenda

As there are every year, the ’08 election year included various key initiative and referenda. In virtually every state, voters enacted or defeated measures on critical issues — ranging from abortion to the status of marriage to gambling and taxes.

And, as always, there was no nationwide pattern on most of the issues decided in these measures. The various proposals often reflected voter opinion depending on the state and region. But one area in which there was a key pattern was that of taxes. In numerous measures, voters in several states said “yes” to higher taxes.

Some of the key issues that were on the ballot last week included. . .


Californians turned down (53% to 47%) Proposition 4 amending the state constitution to require physicians to notify parents or legal guardians of a pregnant minor 48 hours before performing that abortion is performed (although it did not require parental consent for the abortion).

In Colorado, voters overwhelming (73% to 27%) against a constitutional amendment to define “person” to include any human being from the moment of conception.

But in South Dakota, voters did vote down (55% to 45%) tougher abortion limits contained in Initiative 11.

Affirmative Action

By a very narrow margin (just over 50% of the vote), Colorado voters apparentlyh did enact a measure not unlike those passed before in California, Arizona, and other states that would ban state government from granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. Amendment 46 covered public education, employment, and contracting.

Nebraska’s Initiative 424 was almost identitical and voters resoundingly enacted the anti-affirmative action measure with 58% of the vote.


Marylanders followed the pattern of several states in authorizing “video lottery terminals” (also known as slot machines) at certain locations throughout the Free State. The funds from the machines would be used primarily to fund public education.

Question 2, which provided for the “slot machines-for-schools,” passed with 59% of the vote.

Gay Rights and Marriage

Issues dealing with gay rights in terms of marriage and adoption were on the ballot in four states. In the most-closely watched of the measures, Californians narrowly (52%) enacted Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between man and woman. Proposition 8, which drew international press attention and whose supporters were heavily outspent, was crafted to overturn an early decision by the state Supreme Court striking down an earlier state measure that banned same-sex marriage.

Similar statewide bans on same-sex marriage were enacted in Arizona (57%) and Florida (62%). In Arkansas, voters adopted a ban on adoption of gay couples.


Michigan voters passed two controversial measures related to health and by comfortable margins. Proposition 2, which would amend the state constitution to permit human embryonic stem cell research with certain restrictions, was passed with 53% of the vote. Under the proposition, embryos must have been created for fertility treatment purposes, have been otherwise discarded, and they may not be used more than fourteen days after cell division has begun. Proposition 1, permitting marijuana for medical use under a list of conditions (such as cancer and glaucoma), passed with 63% of the vote.

In Washington State, Initiative 1000, which would permit physician-assisted suicide through legal injections and under certain circumstances, was enacted with 59% of the vote.

Illegal Immigration

A measure that would toughen penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants went down by a margin of 59% to 41% in Arizona. But Proposition 202 not only would have required suspension of business licenses for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens but also included an increase in penalties on identity theft and on the fines on employers who pay workers “under the table” rather than wages.

Right to Work

In a setback for the right-to-work movement, a measure that would have made Colorado a right-to-work state went down resoundingly. Amendment 47, prohibiting forced unionization of workers and compulsory payment of union dues, was defeated. Also defeated was a companion measure, Amendment 49, which would have banned automatic deductions from government employees’ paychecks for special interests and political purposes.


In two states, measures to limit or scrap taxes were defeated. The most high-profile measure was Question 1 in Massachusetts, which would have phased out the state income tax over a two-year period. It went down by a margin of 70% to 30%.

In North Dakota, Measure 2 — to cut personal income tax in half and reduce the corporate income tax by 15% — was also defeated.

In two other states, proposals to increase state taxes were passed. Minnesotans voted to increase the sales tax by 3/8ths of a percent, which (according to Americans for Tax Reform), would result in a $300 milion annual sales tax increase.

Missouri voters supported Proposition A, to increase the state tax paid by casinos to 21 per cent and impose a $2 per visitor visitor casino fee. In what was a blow to the anti-gambling forces, Proposition A put a limit on the construction of new casinos throughout the Show-Me State.

In Arizona, a resounding 65% of voters said no to Proposition 105. The ‘Majority Rules’ measure would have required any initiative that imposes additional taxes or spending must garner approval of a majority of registered voters rather than simply a majority of votes cast.