Associated Press: Sometimes a Ballot Issue Isn’t Really About the Issue
Associated Press: Sometimes a Ballot Issue Isn't Really About the Issue
BISMARCK, N.D. The outcome of one of the nation’s most critical Senate races could come down to an unrelated question: how North Dakota residents feel about blocking noncitizens from voting — even though such voting is already illegal.
Conservatives have placed the issue on the November ballot and are promoting it heavily, hoping to bring out a flood of conservative voters who, at the same time, would boost Republican Kevin Cramer to victory in his close Senate race with Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp .
The hardball tactic is also on display this cycle in California, where Republicans hope a proposal to repeal a gasoline tax increase attracts the kind of voter who will help them hang on to some House seats. In other states, marijuana legalization measures could gin up turnout for Democratic candidates even if the measures themselves fizzle.
“Initiatives are a good thing overall,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs for the government watchdog group Common Cause. “But nefarious tactics are sometimes used by both parties to try and hijack the process … to get a certain outcome in certain elections.”
The use of citizen initiatives, allowed in two dozen states, has been rising along with dissatisfaction with gridlocked government. Ballotpedia, an organization that analyzes electoral data, counted 75 such measures in 2016, the most in nearly 40 years. This year Ballotpedia counted 69.
Scherb said partisan use of the measures is growing. It’s a tactic that can be especially potent in midterm elections, where turnout is smaller — typically 40 percent, compared with 60 percent in a general election nationally.