Same-Sex Marriage, Wages Top Ballot Issues

By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Revving up their base with emotionally resonant issues, Democrats won increases in the minimum wage in at least five states, while Republicans pulled out their 2004 playbook and appeared to have won bans on same-sex marriage in at least six states.

Voters approved minimum-wage increases in Arizona, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio. The vote was too close to call in Colorado.

Same-sex marriage bans, meanwhile, were approved in Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, and appeared likely to win in Colorado, where a measure to grant the legal rights of marriage to domestic partners was losing. The vote in South Dakota was too close to call, but in Arizona the ban appeared to be losing, with more than 92 percent of precincts reporting and 52 percent of voters voting no.

In one of the most closely watched state votes, South Dakota voters soundly rejected a ban on nearly all abortions.

The ban, which had been approved by the legislature and the governor earlier in the year, was the strictest such law in the country. Supporters had hoped it would be appealed to the Supreme Court and open a legal door for similar antiabortion laws.

"Tonight's victory belongs to the people of South Dakota who fought back against this intrusion into their personal private decisions," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which helped fund the campaign against the abortion ban. "It's a wake-up call to lawmakers in other states, that the pro-choice majority will not allow an assault on Roe v. Wade to go unanswered."

Intense attention was also focused on a Missouri measure to legalize stem cell research. With more than 70 percent of precincts counted, that vote was nearly tied.

The stem cell vote erupted last month as a national issue when actor Michael J. Fox, visibly shaking from Parkinson's disease, appeared in an ad for State Auditor Claire McCaskill (D), who edged out a victory over Sen. James M. Talent (R) early this morning.

McCaskill supports the measure, but Talent opposes it. Rush Limbaugh weighed in on the issue, first accusing Fox of exaggerating his symptoms and then apologizing, while maintaining that the actor was being used by politicians.

In Michigan, a measure banning the use of affirmative action programs for education, employment and public contracts won easily. A University of Michigan affirmative action program had been appealed to the Supreme Court, where it was substantially upheld.

Same-sex marriage was on ballots in 13 states in 2004, and analysts said then that the issue was a factor in drawing conservatives to the polls and in Republican victories. This year, though, the issue did not seem to have the same political punch, in part because few of the eight states with the proposed marriage bans had competitive Senate or House races. In those that did, Virginia and Tennessee, the issue was not especially prominent.

But wage measures in Arizona, Missouri, Montana and Ohio shared the ballot with close Senate races with a GOP incumbent.

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