"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Ballot messages

The rhetoric will have it in some quarters that the voters in Tuesday’s election were casting voting for reduced government spending and reduced government, generally. They’d have to base that argument on the the talking points of many of the candidates who won, but as we know, people vote for or against candidates for many reasons apart from their “philosophy.”

Attitudes toward policy get a clearer expression – somewhat clearer anyway – on ballot issues. So what might be the philosophical takeaways from the ballot issues around the Northwest on Tuesday?

OREGON Some local governments (notably around liberal Portland) encountered disappointment in funding measures, but that message didn’t seem to apply so much to the state as a whole.

Oregon voters approved (57%) Measure 73, extended sentences for people convicted of DUI and some sex crimes, and (69%) Measure 76, which purports to guarantee a money stream for state parks and wildlife. Voters rejected two measures which would have added to private enterprise and diminished some governmental control: Measure 74 (no 57%) on a medical marijuana system, and Measure 75 (no 68%) on a proposed private casino east of Portland.

IDAHO Idaho voters expressed several types of faith in government on their ballot issues, all constitutional amendments.

They passed: Senate Joint Resolution 1 (64.1%) ending the since-statehood ban on tuition at the University of Idaho; House Joint Resolution 4 (63.5%), allowing for easier acquisition of of hospital debt (can anyone say, “Rachet up those health care costs”?); HJR 5 (53.3%), which gave similar license for public airport development; and HJR 7 (57%), a rough counterpart for publicly-owned electricity production facilities – those operations that actually do meet the dictionary definition of “socialist”. The state Republican Party had opposed passage of the latter three.

WASHINGTON Washington voters did pass some tax and budget restriction measures. There were four such of some substance: Initiative 1053 (65.2%) requiring a two-thirds vote on passing many of them and Initiative 1107 (62.3%) reversing some tax increases on some food and candy materials. They rejected a proposed income tax on upper-income residents (no 65.2%), possibly in part because of a strong campaign declaring that it would be followed up (extending the tax to lower levels) by something it explicitly did not do. And it approved a measure (SJR 8225) limiting the state debt, though that was something passed by the Democratic legislature.

That’s not the whole story, though; it’s mainly just the tax side. The full picture is less conclusive.

Washington voters also rejected Initiative 1082 (no 58.3%), which would have broken the current state monopoly on providing industrial insurance and allowed private insurers into the market, the way Oregon and Idaho do. And they rejected two measures (Initiative 1100, no 52%, and Initiative 1105, no 63.6%) which would have ended the state’s monopoly on liquor sales. The loudest arguments against the measures seemed to have to do with loss of state revenue and loss of state employees.

The Tuesday message, as always, is more complex than some people would have you believe.

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