- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

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.

The Massachusetts income-tax repeal failed 53 percent to 47 percent, with 48 percent of precincts reporting. The Arkansas measure was trailing 65 percent to 35 percent with 23 percent of the vote counted.

•Proposition 2 in Idaho, which would reinstate term limits for elected state, county, municipal and school district officials. The state legislature previously abolished such limits.

•Amendment No. 1 in Florida, which would reaffirm the death penalty, struck down by the state Supreme Court.

But issues such as bans on partial-birth abortion, school vouchers and tough criminal-justice measures like "three strikes, you're out" that once were staples, were missing from this year's ballots.

Ballot measures in two states Tennessee and North Dakota call for the creation of state lotteries. The lottery initiative won in Tennessee after 82 percent of the ballots had been counted, by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent. North Dakota voters also backed a state lottery. With 41 percent of precincts counted, the yes vote was 57 percent and the no vote was 43 percent.

State Sen. Steve Coleman, a Democrat who has been leading the fight for a lottery in Tennessee, said passage not only required a majority on the ballot question but also a majority of voters in the gubernatorial race.

"It won't be easy, but I think it's looking positive," he said before the polls closed. "This state's financial situation is terrible. We don't have an income tax. We need money for education.

"Revenue from a state lottery would range from $330 million to $1 billion. A lottery would definitely be one part of a fiscal solution," Mr. Coleman said in a telephone interview from Nashville.

As for the drug-reform initiatives:

Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot, which would provide supervised treatment, not jail time, for first- and second-time violators of drug-possession laws found with a small amount of narcotics, was defeated.

In Nevada, Ballot Question 5, which would amend the state constitution to provide that possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana by people age 21 or older is not cause for arrest, failed 80 percent to 20 percent.

Proposition 203 on the Arizona ballot would have created a medical-marijuana registry card system, authorizing medical use of the illegal drug for a debilitating illness; would have established a state distribution system for those who qualify for using the drug; and would have set a maximum civil fine of $250 or less for possession of 2 ounces of marijuana or less.

With 56 percent of the Arizona vote counted, Proposition 203 was failing, 57 percent to 43 percent.

Bob Newland, Libertarian sponsor of Constitutional Amendment A on the South Dakota ballot, which would stipulate that a criminal defendant even one who admits guilt has the right to challenge the merits, validity and applicability of a law he has been charged under, said late last night that the measure had been losing 80 percent to 20 percent all night long.

Another drug-related measure on the South Dakota ballot that would make it legal under state law, but not federal law, for a person to grow, harvest, possess, transport, buy or sell industrial hemp was also losing by a wide margin, Mr. Newland said.

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