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Election 2002

Status Quo Prevails in States' Ballot Measures

November 06, 2002|Tom Gorman | Times Staff Writer

Three of the boldest measures facing voters across the country were rejected Tuesday: Nevada refused to legalize marijuana, Oregon rejected universal health coverage and South Dakota wouldn't let jurors take the law into their own hands.

In Washington state, a monorail system won financing approval from Seattle voters, while North Dakota voters rejected paying college graduates to remain in their state.

And in six measures across the nation addressing issues of animal protection, voters in five states rallied for the animals.

In the most striking measures -- involving marijuana, health care and law enforcement -- voters came down on the side of the establishment.

In Nevada, police complained they had little money to battle a campaign to allow possession of up to three ounces of marijuana. Nonetheless, voters resoundingly defeated the proposal that would have made Nevada the first state in the nation to allow recreational pot smoking.

Voters in Arizona rejected a proposal to lessen the crime for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and South Dakota voters opposed allowing farmers to grow hemp for industrial purposes. Law enforcement argued that because hemp so closely resembles marijuana plants, the job of busting pot farms would be all the more difficult.

Oregon voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to establish a $20-billion health care plan for everyone -- which would have made Oregon the first state in the nation to provide full medical coverage for all.

Despite the ballot initiative's popular appeal, opponents argued that there would be catastrophic fiscal fallout for the state if it passed.

Voters in South Dakota declared that the law's the law and should not be changed by jurors. In strong numbers, they rejected a measure that would have allowed juries to nullify state criminal laws if they consider them unfair while weighing the guilt of a defendant.

Animals fared well Tuesday.

In Florida, voters adopted a measure to ban the use of cages to contain pregnant pigs in the state's industrial hog farms, calling it cruel and inhumane, while cockfighting was prohibited by voters in Oklahoma, even though the state Legislature has repeatedly refused to outlaw the sport.

Arkansas voters, however, were soundly defeating a measure that would have made cruelty to an animal a felony rather than a misdemeanor. The measure said animal cruelty "cannot be tolerated in a civilized society."

Georgia voters adopted a specialty license plate to finance spay and neuter campaigns, while in Arizona, voters were rejecting a measure to expand gambling at greyhound racing tracks.

For years, Seattle residents have campaigned for an expanded monorail system through downtown to help ease traffic congestion, and on Tuesday voters approved a plan to finance a $1.7-billion project through increased vehicle license fees.

To stem the flow of college graduates fleeing North Dakota, voters there considered whether to reimburse them up to $5,000 in college tuition -- and offer a $5,000 tax credit over five years -- if the students found employment in the state. In early returns, the proposal was trailing.

Voters in two states were split on whether to banish bilingual education programs in favor of full-immersion English instruction. In Massachusetts, English won over Spanish by about a 2-1 margin, while voters in Colorado were turning down a similar proposal.

In past years, California and Arizona had rejected bilingual education; Massachusetts becomes the third state to do it.

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