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6 States Back Term Limits; Oregon Awaits 'Death' Vote : Initiatives: Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada and Massachusetts render verdict on incumbency. Colorado says no to campaign reform.

November 10, 1994| From Associated Press

Despite Tuesday's proof that voters have the ability to turn incumbents out of office--at least 38 were defeated in House, Senate and gubernatorial races--term limit measures continued to succeed in elections across the country.

Congressional and other term limits were approved in Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska and Nevada, bringing to 21 the number of states that have reined in their politicians.

Colorado tightened existing term limits, but Utah decided not to reduce its terms any further.

Term limits also passed in Washington, D.C., and Spokane, Wash.

The term limit question was just one of a dizzying array of ballot measures decided in 37 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in scores of local jurisdictions.

Some results may bring enormous change.

Oregon may have to wait until Friday to learn if voters passed the "Death With Dignity" proposal, which would free doctors to prescribe lethal medicine to dying patients.

The outcome hinges on 265,000 uncounted absentee ballots, 21% of the vote. On Wednesday, only 39,000 votes separated the pros and cons, for a tentative spread of 52% in favor and 48% opposed.

Elsewhere, voters rejected anti-gay rights initiatives, casino developers, campaign spending caps, handgun bans and even the opportunities to control their taxes through the popular vote.

"The referendum process was part of the voter rebellion that we saw at the polls," Larry J. Sabato, a scholar of campaigns and elections and professor of government at the University of Virginia, said Wednesday.

Sabato noted a libertarian streak too, citing the defeat of the anti-gay rights measures in Idaho and Oregon.

"That says to me that the conservative wave now sweeping the country also has a libertarian edge to it. 'Don't tread on me, anti-government, leave the individual alone, to the extent possible,' " he said.

In a smaller jurisdiction, Alachua County, Fla., voters repealed an existing gay rights ordinance.

Colorado voters said no to campaign reform, rejecting limits on campaign contributions.

So did people in Massachusetts, who rejected a novel ban on corporate contributions to public referendums.

Oklahoma voters said no to a penny entertainment tax that was to support breast cancer research.

In Colorado, they rejected a 50-cent hike in the cigarette tax that would have helped pay for health care for the poor and anti-smoking programs. Arizona barely passed a similar measure, which will add 40 cents to a pack of smokes.

Given the chance to hold all new taxes up to voter approval, Oregon, Missouri and Montana backed away. Voters in Massachusetts, with an opportunity to lower taxes for most residents, rejected a graduated tax rate and held onto a flat rate.

In Nevada, voters decided to require two-thirds legislative approval for tax increases.

Not surprisingly, the country's grouchiness extended to crime measures.

Georgia enacted the nation's sternest sentencing law, a "two-strikes" measure promising life without parole to anyone who commits a second violent felony.

Oregon stiffened mandatory sentences for violent crimes, and Vermont made it easier for judges to deny bail to people accused of violent crimes.

Ohio, which has 134 men on Death Row but has not executed anyone in 31 years, chose to speed up the execution process by removing the appeals court phase. Appeals will now go directly to the state Supreme Court.

Floridians recoiled from the vision of 47 casinos around the state. Casino measures also failed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Colorado and on the Navajo Reservation. Colorado said no to slot machines at airports; Missouri said yes to slots on riverboats.

In New Mexico, however, voters gave the go-ahead to video gambling and a new state lottery.

The status quo was fine with some voters.

Seat belt laws withstood challenges in the Dakotas and Massachusetts. Wyoming voters rejected a broad abortion ban. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Kenosha rejected bans on handguns.

Elsewhere, Vermont voters approved gender-neutral language for their state constitution.

West Virginia rid its constitution of language proclaiming that "white and colored persons shall not be taught in the same school." The provision had been void since a Supreme Court ruling 40 years ago.

In Washington, voters backed a measure that really had teeth: They can now legally buy dentures directly from manufacturers instead of through their dentists.

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