Voters Decide 204 Ballot Issues

primar ballot vote
From approving tough new gun control laws in Colorado and Oregon to defeating major school voucher proposals in California and Michigan, U.S. voters decided key ballot initiatives Tuesday to enact their will at the state and local level.

In local elections across the country, voters weighed in on more than 200 ballot measures that range from tax and zoning policy to determining who can marry and when a person has the right to end his or her life.

In one of the most emotional contests of the election, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved a measure requiring background checks on all sales at gun shows -- a move supporters said might have prevented the sale of the guns used in last year's bloody massacre at Columbine High School.

"It was Daniel who really led this, he was my inspiration," leading campaign organizer Tom Mauser, whose 15-year-old son Daniel was one of 15 people shot dead at Columbine, said.

The Colorado measure had a 70 percent approval rate with 77 percent of the vote counted. A similar measure was expected to pass in Oregon, where television networks said exit poll projections put it ahead by 60 percent to 40 percent.

In what could prove a major blow to the national movement seeking more private alternatives to U.S. public schools, voters in both California and Michigan roundly defeated major school voucher proposals in their states.

In California, where campaigners for and against the measure spent a whopping $40 million in a hard fought battle, voters defeated a measure to give parents $4,000 a year toward private school tuition by a two to one margin, according to network exit poll projections. In Michigan, meanwhile, a similar but more limited voucher proposal fell in defeat by a similar margin.

"We are elated," said Oscar Gonzales, a spokesman for the California campaign opposed to the voucher plan, known as Proposition 38. "There is just a lot of trust in our public education system."

Both measures, along with a third in Washington state, enjoyed the backing of wealthy individuals who were determined to set their stamp on the face of public education.

Supporters said the voucher plans are crucial to giving parents the choice to move their children out of failing local public schools. But opponents, which included the teachers union, said it would prove destructive by siphoning off much-needed funds from cash strapped public schools.

Gay rights, which have featured on the ballot in several recent elections, suffered a defeat in Nebraska, where voters handily passed an initiative that bans recognition of same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.

A similar ban on gay marriage was forecast to pass in Nevada, while a Maine initiative which could ban discrimination against gays was too close to call hours after polls closed, as was an Oregon initiative aimed at prohibiting schools from teaching in a way that condones or encourages homosexual or bisexual behavior.

n Alabama, meanwhile, voters looked likely to put to rest one of the lingering legacies of America's segregated past as television projections estimated a 58-to-42 percent vote in favor of scrapping a long-standing -- but currently not enforced -- ban on interracial marriage.

Strategies in the war on drugs were also on the ballot in several states. In California, television networks said exit polls indicated victory for a state proposal mandating drug addiction treatment and probation -- not prison -- for an estimated 24,000 nonviolent personal users per year.

On the other side of the drug debate, Colorado and Nevada looked ready to join seven other states and the District of Columbia which have passed measures legalizing the personal use of marijuana for medical reasons.

But in Alaska, television networks said voters turned back the nation's most radical marijuana policy proposal -- voting by nearly two to one against an initiative which would have essentially legalized the drug for all adult personal use and regulate it like alcohol.

On closely watched measure which was too close to call late Tuesday evening was Maine's proposal to legalize doctor-assisted suicide, which had been widely seen as a bellwether for the national movement promoting the so-called "right to die" of terminally ill adults.

English is now Utah's official language, thanks to Utah voters who approved an initiative requiring the state's government to operate almost exclusively in English.

Initiative A was one of a number of ballot measures that appeared to be approved by voters Tuesday. The major issues on the ballot were ahead late Tuesday night: a proposal to make it harder for police to seize property, a tobacco settlement trust fund, fluoridation in Salt Lake and Davis counties and a transit tax in Davis, Salt Lake and Weber counties.

Arizona voters approved Proposition 204, determining how the state will use its share of the multi-state tobacco settlement money. The money, estimated at $3 billion over the next 25 years, will be used to expand eligibility for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to 100 percent of the federal poverty limit instead of the current 34 percent.