As Election Day draws nearer, we at The State of Sunshine have been giving some thought about how initiatives/amendments/referenda in various states will affect turnout and therefore voting. Will they have an effect on the Democratic Party retaking the House or Senate?
Let’s take Ohio for example. Incumbent Republican Senator Mike DeWine is trialing Democrat Congressman Sherrod Brown in the polls. Three or four Republican House members are also in trouble. However, Ohio has several amendments on the ballot. Issue 2 establishes a minimum wage, Issue 3 would allow slot machines at certain pari mutuel facilities, and Issues 4 and 5 deal with indoor smoking. The minimum wage amendment will draw a more liberal base, and the slot machine amendment would draw a more conservative base. Ohio’s turnout looks to have no net effect on the race for the House and Senate.
What about other ‘battleground’ states?
Pennsylvania – Incumbent Republican Rick Santorum can’t look to the ballot measures for help with turnout against Democrat Bob Casey. The only measure would borrow money to fund health care for Persian Gulf War veteran’s. The four Republican House members also see no benefit.
Missouri – Incumbent Republican Senator Jim Tallent is in a dead heat with Democrat Claire McCaskill. Will the ballot measures affect this race? Amendment 2 will allow stem embryonic sell research. Amendment 3 will create a trust fund to reduce tobacco use and low-income health care programs by raising the taxes on tobacco products. Proposition B creates a state minimum wage. An interesting mix, but it would seem that these would draw more liberal voters who support them, than conservative opponents. The slight edge might go to the Democrats here.
Virgina – Incumbent Republican Senator George Allen, after his ‘macaca moment,’ finds himself trailing former Navy Secretary Jim Webb. There are three questions for Virginians. Question 1 bans gay marriage. Question 2 would allow churches to incorporate as a legal business entity. Question 3 allows local governments to grant property tax exemptions for certain new construction. All three seem likely to draw more conservatives to the ballot, which would tip the turnout toward Allen.
Montana – Most pundits believe Republican Senator Conrad Burns will lose to Democratic State Senate President Jon Tester. The ballot measures may not have an effect. The two that are noteworthy are Initiative 151, which establishes a state minimum wage, and Initiative 154, which is an eminent domain measure. The net effect will be turned out for both liberals and conservatives, meaning the race may not be affected.
Tennessee – In a race between Republican former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and Congressman Harold Ford, turnout could be key. There are two ballot measures in the Volunteer state. Amendment 1 bans gay marriage and Amendment 2 allows the state to give tax breaks to older residents. Ford has been noting that he supports the ban on gay marriage, and that he is a man of faith – a nod to show how strong the conservative turnout will be for Amendment 1. It may be enough to tip the balance to Corker, and even keep the Senate in Republican control.
Florida – There are three or four House seats in trouble in the Sunshine state. However, the Constitutional Amendments do not have any real effect on turnout. Amendment 3 could draw both sides, as it will raise the threshold for passing future amendments — and there is a gay marriage amendment. an anti-development amendment, and legislative redistricting amendments in the process for 2008. Amendments 6 and 7 would give additional property tax exemptions, but they won’t draw from one side more than the other. In the end, the congressional candidates will not see any turnout effect from the Amendments. (For more on Florida’s amendments see the State of Sunshine reviews here, here, here, here, and here.)
For additional reading: The Rothenberg Political Report has a recap of most major ballot issues in these and other states.