Voters Face Range of Issues on State Ballots As state elections approach, everything from the minimum wage to abortion bans, even dove hunting, will be on the ballot. Guests examine various local initiatives around the country.
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Voters Face Range of Issues on State Ballots

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Voters Face Range of Issues on State Ballots

Voters Face Range of Issues on State Ballots

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

There's a lot at stake on Election Day, now less than three weeks away. And while most attention will focus on control of Congress, voters in 37 states will make decisions on a host of ballot initiatives that - many of them on national issues. In a few places, interest in ballot measures could affect Senate races. In several, there are so many proposals voters may need a magnifying glass to read all the fine print.

The big issues include gay marriage; amendments defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman are on the ballot in nine states. And eminent domain, the government's power to take private property without the owner's consent, that's up in 13 states. There are a variety of proposals on tobacco, gambling and marijuana. And if you live in Michigan, you'll be asked to check a box on whether dove hunting should be banned.

Later, our weekly fix with NPR's Political Junkie Ken Rudin focuses on homestretch advertising buys. If you have questions about that or any of the races of Election 2006, you can send us e-mail now; is the address.

But first we focus on ballot initiatives around the country. What's the hot issue where you live? The number here in Washington, 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address is

And we begin in California, home of much initiative activity over the years, where Kareem Crayton joins us. He's an assistant professor of law and politics at the University of Southern California Law School. He's also affiliated with USC's Initiative and Referendum Institute, which tracks ballot measures around the country. Kareem Crayton joins us from the studios of member station KUSE in Los Angeles. Nice to have you on the program.

Professor KAREEM CRAYTON (Professor of Law and Politics, University of Southern California): Very good to be with you, Neal.

CONAN: Gay marriage was the big ballot issue last time around, and some credit it for electing George W. Bush, for re-electing him. This time, it's eminent domain. How come eminent domain is up in so many states?

Prof. CRAYTON: Well, in most cases this is a reaction to a recent Supreme Court decision, Kelo, where the Court approved the state taking blighted areas for the purposes of allowing private contractors to develop it. And a number of interests became very concerned that this could happen anywhere. So there are a lot of initiatives on the ballot to try to stave off something like this happening elsewhere.

CONAN: In fact, I think the Supreme Court decision said something along the lines of there's nothing in the Constitution to prohibit this, but states can pass laws, if they'd like.

Prof. CRAYTON: Precisely so. And so they are taking the invitation in many of these states to pass initiatives.

CONAN: And gay marriage amendments, those are basically the same kinds of things that we saw in 2004?

Prof. CRAYTON: Certainly so. A number of these states have had a number of cases where either the initiatives have been slowed because of court battles, single subject rule and the like. But in many of these cases, states like Tennessee and South Carolina have put them on the ballot hoping at least to achieve some of the same turnout among conservatives that they achieved in states like Ohio the last time around.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And at least in the state of Virginia, where rather unexpectedly the Senate race is pretty tight, gay marriage is on the ballot there and could affect that Senate race.

Prof. CRAYTON: Absolutely. It turns out that even if initiatives don't have a huge affect on increasing turnout, even a minor affect in a very tight race involving, say, a race for Senate or governor, can have a huge affect on who ultimately wins.

CONAN: And there's the stem cell research initiative. That's in the state of Missouri. That could also - another tight Senate race - affect that.

Prof. CRAYTON: Absolutely. And the interesting thing about the stem cell debate, just as is true for the eminent domain debate, this is mirroring what's going on in the national politics. And a number of people I think who find that the federal government hasn't been as responsive in promoting stem cell research have decided to do that on a state level.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And is there anyway, though, to track how these people who may come out because they feel passionately about the dove hunting in Michigan or, you know, abortion in South Dakota, to track exactly how their votes are going to go to candidates?

Prof. CRAYTON: It's hard to say, unless of course the candidates staked out a position that is exactly the opposite of the candidate they are running against. It often helps to have, you know, an extra issue to lambaste the other side with - if you're running in a race for senate or governor - to link it up to support for an initiative when there's overwhelming support for it, such as in the stem cell debate in Missouri.

So there are studies that say sometimes it can have an affect, but return's sort of a mix. Some people say it has a more or less negative effect. Some others would say, well, it's a hugely positive, and it works if you're a candidate who aligns yourself with an otherwise very popular initiative.

CONAN: If you'd like to join the conversation, our number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is We're discussing ballot initiatives across the country.

And Claudio(ph), Claudio's on the line with us from Reno, Nevada.

CLAUDIO (Caller): Hey, how you doing?

CONAN: Very well, thank you.

CLAUDIO: Listen, what my issues is is we're suppose to give initiative of marijuana on the ballot and to hopefully legally buy it for medical purposes, and even possibly I think less than an ounce. And what I don't understand is there's been so much push back on this initiative from the people here in the state. They've tried to do it before, they have not been able to do it. And yet we allow gambling and prostitution here. And it's just such a great source of tax revenue, especially for medical purposes. You know, that's kind of my gig on that.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Kareem Crayton, Nevada is not the only state where medical marijuana is on the ballot.

Prof. CRAYTON: Right. I believe that a number of states, I think one of them may be Arizona, they also have a number of - actually, I think maybe even South Dakota has something like this on the ballot. But…

CONAN: I believe it does.

Prof. CRAYTON: Yes. A lot of these states are reacting to what, again, turns out to be a lack of federal support for medical marijuana to be permitted. And in some of these cases - California is another one of these cases - where in the past, initiatives were submitted on to the ballot, the public at large saw it as a sensible plan. And so, you know, you'll continue to have this debate between people who think they should be free to be able to use marijuana -particularly when it solves very legitimate medical concerns - and people who think, you know, ceding this ground cedes the entire criminal prosecution of drugs nationally.

CONAN: And this is another one of those cases. And, Claudio, you'll forgive me if I put a national spin on your referendum there in Nevada. Because of the federal government's interpretation of law, no matter what law Nevada passes, even in a referendum, may not change the way people's lives are led in the state of Nevada. Nevertheless, it could affect the national debate on an issue like marijuana reforms.

CLAUDIO: Well, you know, the thing that really bothers me about this whole subject is that we can - this can be controlled. I mean it can be controlled. And if it was - if someone - it's no different than if someone was drinking and driving. If we had someone, a cop pulls him over, they're suspected of using marijuana. They go down, they take a urine or a blood test. They prosecute them no different than they would someone that's on alcohol.

And I think that's - that seems to be the big issue here. It's not so much legalizing it for medical use and then just opening the door and saying, okay, now we're going to let that be a cause for everyone to use it. You know what I'm saying?

CONAN: Yeah.

CLAUDIO: I just don't see that. I think we can do it responsibly. No different from alcohol. I mean why isn't that the same thing for alcohol, you know?

CONAN: Claudio, thanks for the call. Good luck.

CLAUDIO: Thank you very much. Bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

We just mentioned South Dakota. Voters in that state will be deciding on several hot button issues: gay marriage, medical marijuana, yes, and abortion. Bill Richardson joins us now. He's chair of the Political Science Department at the University of South Dakota and joins us from the studios of South Dakota Public Broadcasting in Vermillion.

Nice to have you on the program today.

Professor BILL RICHARDSON (Professor of Political Science, University of South Dakota): Thank you. Nice to be here.

CONAN: And marijuana aside, the big issue in the state is whether or not to repeal the state's ban on abortion, known as Referred Law 6. And we have a couple of ads that we want people to listen to on both sides of the issue. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Woman #1: We're all doctors here in South Dakota.

Unidentified Man #1: Science now proves that life begins at conception.

Unidentified Man #2: Over 96 percent of abortions performed in South Dakota are for birth control.

Unidentified Woman #2: Referred Law 6 addresses these situations.

Unidentified Man #3: This measure does provide exception for the life and the health of the mother.

Unidentified Man #4: And the morning after pill may be taken in any event.

Unidentified Woman #3: Including sexual assault or incest.

Unidentified Man #5: Referred Law 6 is a caring approach to protecting women...

Unidentified Man #6: And limiting abortion performed as birth control in South Dakota.

Unidentified Group: Abortion stops a beating heart. Vote yes on Referred Law 6.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Woman #4: Confused about the new abortion ban? Get the fact from doctors right here in South Dakota. According to the South Dakota Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the ban includes no exception for rape victims, no exception for victims of incest, no exception to protect a woman's health. Our state's OBGYNs urge the repeal of this ban that harms the women of South Dakota. Vote no on Referred Law 6. It just goes too far.

CONAN: And, Bill Richardson, interesting, both those ads kept referring to we here in South Dakota, doctors in South Dakota - are these campaigns being paid for by people in South Dakota?

Prof. RICHARDSON: Well, that will be a little tough to track until such time as the campaign finance reports begin to trickle in ten days before the elections. What you're seeing of course is an attempt by the legislature to craft a law that would quickly make its way to the Supreme Court as a direct challenge to Roe versus Wade. A group of South Dakota citizens, and others perhaps, got together and got an initiative on the ballot to oppose this particular law, and that's what the fight is on over the November 7th election.

CONAN: And it's drawn considerable interest from people out of state, again those who may either want to see this defeated or see it pass and then go on up to the supreme Court.

Prof. RICHARDSON: That's correct. You've got groups on both sides who see an opportunity to affect a policy one way or another, and are certainly jumping in and are jumping in with, as you saw, some very good ads on both sides.

CONAN: And it's strange to think of it, but South Dakota has always to some degree been a staging ground, if you will, for issues with national repercussions because of the number of issues that you find on your ballot there.

Prof. RICHARDSON: Well, South Dakota prides itself on the fact that it was the first state in the union to allow for initiatives and referendums back in the late 1800s. It was part of the populist tradition of the state. It was a way of perhaps correcting for legislative inaction or inappropriate legislative action.

What has happened now, however, is that small states like South Dakota, where it's easy to get on the ballot, allow interested groups to bypass legislature completely. That is they don't have to go through the difficult process of lobbying for a particular measure. They can just get, in this case, 16,000 or 33,000 signatures, depending on whether it's an attempt to overturn a law or attempt to have a constitutional amendment, and get it as a form of direct democracy, go directly to the people in ways that are perhaps pernicious.

CONAN: And in a small state like South Dakota, slick advertisements like that, just as expensive to produce of course, but less expensive to broadcast in the markets up there in South Dakota.

Bill Richardson, stay with us if you would. We're going to take a short break and we'll be talking more also with Kareem Crayton at the University of Southern California. And we want to hear from you as well. What are the hot button ballot initiatives where you live this year? Give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is

I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. When voters head to the polls next month, they'll have a lot to think about. There are some 200 ballot initiatives around the country, everything from gay marriage to stem cell research. We'll talk more about that in a couple of minutes. For a list on all of the initiatives that will be up for a vote, you can go to the TALK OF THE NATION page at our Web site,

Still with us is Kareem Crayton. He's with the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California Law School in Los Angeles. Of course, you're welcome to join us as well. Give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is

And still with us also, Bill Richardson, chair of the Political Science Department at the University of South Dakota. Before we let you go I wanted to ask you about another issue on the ballot there in your state next month, and that is something our listeners may have heard Nina Totenberg report about this morning on Morning Edition: Jail for Judges. Tell us a little bit about that.

Prof. RICHARDSON: Well, this is an initiative, actually it's a constitutional amendment, that was proposed by a group out in California. And they have decided to try, with the 33,000 signatures required in South Dakota, to change the South Dakota constitution in what they call a judicial accountability measure, but which really causes judges to be put on trial by 13-member citizen grand juries who can reach back retroactively - that is 25 years - to decisions that a judge may have made far in the past, or that even jurors may have made far in the past, and seek to penalize them. Penalize them in the form of losing portions of their pension, penalize them in very significant ways that would, if enacted, probably bring commerce to a halt relatively soon in South Dakota, because all of us who depend on the sanctity and predictability of contracts would suddenly find that nothing is predictable now.

CONAN: And two questions about that. Again, an outside group from California I guess hoping that this is the first shot in a national campaign?

Prof. RICHARDSON: Well, if they can establish a precedent in South Dakota that they can then point to, they hope obviously to have much greater success in more populous states and, in their dreams, that it will sweep the nation.

CONAN: Mm hmm. And who after this passes would want to become a judge?

Prof. RICHARDSON: Not only who would want to become a judge, but who would want to remain a judge? Who would want to serve on a school board, who would want to serve on a jury? It is in some ways a sort of get out of jail free card for criminals, because it gives them a completely different avenue to challenge decisions that may have gone against them.

CONAN: Of course, it would have to be reviewed by the courts, you'd think.

Prof. RICHARDSON: Well, that's something about which there is some dispute. That is, since it's an amendment to the constitution and it's very cleverly written that it cannot be challenged, how will we challenge it? Certainly not in state court. Can it be challenged in federal court? Lawyers who commented upon it are in disagreement.

CONAN: We'll see. Bill Richardson, thanks very much.

Prof. RICHARDSON: My pleasure.

CONAN: Bill Richardson, chair of the Political Science Department at the University of South Dakota, speaking with us from the studios of South Dakota Public Radio Broadcasting in Vermillion, South Dakota. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line, and this is Mark(ph). And Mark's calling us from -is it pronounced Iola, Wisconsin?

MARK (Caller): Correct.

CONAN: Okay. Go ahead, please.

MARK: Our ballot is going to have on it an initiative to bring back the death penalty in Wisconsin, and we really haven't heard much about it. I don't know if - have you heard anything on that or...

CONAN: Kareem Crayton, is that one of the things that you've been paying attention to this year?

Prof. CRAYTON: I have to say, I haven't really heard very much information about that particular initiative, but I would be curious to know whether there's been any polling done on it. Have you got any sense about what the public mood is on the effort to repeal it?

MARK: No, I haven't. And in the last couple of days now there's a few signs popping up for it and against it, but haven't heard much at all about it.

Prof. CRAYTON: Right. It is certainly the case that many times you'll see, you know, some perennial issues like taxing and spending, the death penalty, continue to come up in initiatives. And it's hard to predict, unless there is, you know, a wave of public sentiment supporting it, what is the likelihood of it passing in an election.

MARK: Would that come back up - excuse me - on an election again, then, if there was - public was for it?

Prof. CRAYTON: It depends. I think really even if the public opinion, you know, seems to suggest that there might be support for that kind of initiative, the real question is whether or not there are people who are organized enough and, frankly, well funded enough, to put something like that on the ballot, which usually requires some petitions to be signed and the like.

MARK: Okay.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Mark.

MARK: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an e-mail we got from Paul(ph) in Columbus, Ohio. Obviously, Paul writes, several ballot issues have a political orientation, i.e. abortion rights tend to be supported by those on the left. Can we expect the result of these issues to mirror the results of the many crucial congressional races?

Prof. CRAYTON: If the question is to me, I think it really depends. In addition to having initiatives that focus on very important, you know, hot button issues, if you want to call them that, it really depends upon whether or not the candidate have staked out opposing views on the initiative. So in many cases you'll see, for example, the Democrats in many states have tried to put forward initiatives dealing with the minimum wage increase. And what has happened in a number of states is that Republicans, and other groups that might not necessarily support minimum wage increases in general, try to either adopt legislation to get it away from the initiative or find other ways to avoid having the initiative on the ballot, because they're concerned that the effects will be rather negative for their party. So it really depends on the context.

CONAN: And again, as you're suggesting, this is an attempt by the parties in various states to bring out voters they suspect will be sympathetic with them, either perhaps gay marriage on the conservative side and well, stem cell research on the Democratic side.

Mr. CRAYTON: Precisely so. And again it forces candidates on a very important public policy issue to actually take a stand. In Missouri, as you mentioned, it actually creates something of a problem for the Republican candidate on the stem cell issue.

CONAN: Well, let's hear a little bit more about that. Joining us is Steve Kraske, political correspondent for The Kansas City Star, host of the program Up to Date on member station KCUR, and he's with us today from their studios in Kansas City. And, Steve, nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. STEVE KRASKE (Political Correspondent, The Kansas City Star): Thanks for having me, Neal.

CONAN: So is this a hot issue in Missouri?

Mr. KRASKE: Boy, it's very, very hot. In fact, it's rivaling the very hot U.S. Senate race out here in Missouri between Democrat Clair McCaskill and Republican Jim Talent. That's a race that could determine the outcome of the U.S. Senate, and this stem cell issue is every bit as hot as that race is right now, Neal.

CONAN: And is it clear that this was put on the ballot in an attempt to bring Democrats to the polls, or was it brought on its own merits?

Mr. KRASKE: I think it was brought on its own merits, at least in this case, Neal. We have a separate issue on the ballot this time around; it's a minimum wage increase proposal. I think you could argue pretty clearly that the Democrats pushed that issue to get voters from the cities out to vote in November.

But the stem cell issue here in Missouri was backed by Jim and Virginia Stowers. They put $2 billion into their research institute and into this campaign here. They are both cancer survivors. He ran a very successful mutual funds company out here. This has been his cause in his life the last few years and really what he's all about. I think that's the main motivation why this thing's on the ballot right now.

CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line. This is Ken(ph). Ken calling us from St. Charles in Missouri.

KEN (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

KEN: The big thing out here with the stem cell is that really all we really know about the issue is what the political ads been telling us on television. On one side - the pro side - is that no - that this will ban human cloning, at least that's my understanding, and that all of the stem cells that will be used are from eggs from fertility clinics - excuse me - that would be discarded anyway. But on the other side, they're saying that - the billboards say stop human cloning, vote no on Amendment 2. And there's commercials now about this will allow scientists to harvest eggs from naïve young women, making them unable to have children.

And the more and more I think about it, it's that Democrats would never have wanted this issue on the ballots right now because it's making it out that us Democrats want to promote cloning and kill babies.

CONAN: Yeah and political ads, Steve Kraske, are rarely the most detailed and objective form of information about any issue.

Mr. KRASKE: Well, Neal, that's for sure. And you're hearing the word - the caller is right, you're hearing the word cloning a lot in this debate. And it's a scare word obviously for people who favor this legislation. You know, former Senator Jack Talent - Jack Danforth, who is a big supporter of this proposal, he says we're not talking about really cloning here, because cloned cells, he says, are an extension of the patient who donates this material to create these cells.

And obviously the Catholic Church and others are disagreeing, saying cloning is exactly what's going on here. U.S. Senate candidate Jim Talent just said he'd hate to be walking down the street and see himself coming the other direction. He's against this proposal. So you're hearing that kind of rhetoric when it comes to this amendment.

CONAN: And the other thing that we were just hearing from Kareem Crayton, the candidates, I gather, have been forced to take positions on the stem cell issue.

Mr. KRASKE: I think absolutely. It's such a hot issue that very few candidates can go forward without saying something on it. Both U.S. Senate candidates are talking about it. But it's interesting, it's not been front and center in this campaign recently, Neal, even though the polling showed strong support for this amendment a month ago. There's a sense at the polling now that things are narrowing out here and that perhaps nearer candidate will see much of the advantage by bringing it up and talking about it very much.

CONAN: And the race itself is pretty tight, too.

Mr. KRASKE: It's very, very tight, Neal. It's too close to call. It's a coin flip right now.

CONAN: Ken, thanks very much for the call.

KEN: All right. Thank you.

CONAN: And, Steve Kraske, thanks for your time today.

Mr. KRASKE: You bet, Neal.

CONAN: Steve Kraske, political correspondent for the Kansas City Star. Host for the program Up to Date on member station KCUR, and he spoke with us from the station studios there in Kansas City.

Of course, Kareem Crayton is still with us. And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Dan. Dan with us from Cincinnati, Ohio.

DAN (Caller): Hello.


DAN: I'm calling about a local county ballot initiative that is very closely linked to a Republican party here. That is, it's Issue 12, which calls for an increase in taxes to build a new county jail. And the Republican Party puts itself forward here locally, throughout the state, throughout the nation I think as the party of law and order. And so the building of a jail they see is a positive way to deal with crime…

CONAN: They generally also advertise themselves as the party of low taxes.

DAN: Right, well, the way they're handling that is they're saying they're going to finance this with the regressive sales tax that is increasing the tax on working class people and at the same time cutting property taxes. So it's a doubly bad tax deal for most people.

CONAN: I'm sure they don't describe this as the regressive sales tax. I get your point, though, Dan.

DAN: No they don't. They say it's a sales tax (unintelligible) the regressive, that is larger percentage of income of…

CONAN: I understand your point. But you're characterizing what they said, and that's not when they said. And, Kareem Crayton, we sometimes forget that along with statewide ballot initiatives, like the ones that Dan's describing here, there are all kinds of local ballot initiatives as well. In fact, some of the ballots in places like Arizona and California are very, very crowded this year.

Prof. CRAYTON: Absolutely, you'll see issues ranging from spending to issues of term limits, which actually happens to be on a ballot here in Los Angeles County, where I live. And they really do give the public an opportunity to vote on a variety of issues. But I want to make a point about two of the issues that the caller just mentioned.

One of the concerns with initiatives in some cases is that the public isn't giving full information. The, you know, splay of ads that you just described offer really rather bumper sticker representations of what turns out to be, in both the stem cell and the abortion debate, rather complex issues. And so some people will, you know, kind of throw their hands up and look at instead who are the people who support each one of these initiatives, who support or oppose them.

And, you know, that often turns to be a pretty good indicator of how people end up voting. But the initiatives turned out to be a very complex process when you're dealing with a very high-profile issue but an issue that turns out to, you know, turn on a number of complex details, because a lot of people have to reduce them to rather simple terms.

And the other point about initiatives is that you'll see sometimes coalitions between people who don't often agree with each other, or people on one side, like the Republicans who are favoring spending in ways that you don't necessarily expect. So in some ways it kind of, you know, requires a little bit more work on the part of the public to get a full account of what's at stake with each one of these initiatives and, you know, whether they should be for it or against it.

CONAN: We're talking about ballot initiatives around the country come November the 7th, and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's go now to Natalie(ph). Natalie with us on the line from Davis, California.

NATALIE (Caller): Thanks so much for taking my call. Interesting - it's so complicated to vote in California. I don't think it's an opportunity, I think it's a big burden when you have a 75-page voter guide. But we're having a déjà vu moment again. Last year and now this year one of the things that people have to think about is parental notification for teen's seeking reproductive freedom and reproductive advice. In other words, that the teenager needs an abortion and they come to the doctor without their parent, the doctor has to then notify the parent or the teenager has to go through the court system to get a waiver through a judge.


NATALIE: It was on the ballot last year. We defeated it last year. They change 300 out of 3,000 words and it's back on this year.

CONAN: And that, Kareem Crayton, annoys some voters, and evidently Natalie as well, that sometimes these issues, no matter how people vote, never go away.

Prof. CRAYTON: Exactly. This goes back to the point that the earlier caller brought up, that sometimes you will have a well funded and, frankly, well organized set of interests that continue to put these issues on the ballot and the public has to continue to vote on it.

And in a place like California which brilliantly has a large number of these initiatives, people end up suffering from what people have described as ballot fatigue. When you have so many elections, people just get sick of showing up to vote on, you know, anything ranging again from whether the public officials serve one term or two terms, or whether or not on a big (unintelligible) issue like abortion, whether or not clearer notification ought to be required.

NATALIE: And it's such a big destruction. The proponents of this have sunk in over $2 million, meanwhile, the opponents, obviously I'm one of them, we have a bunch of volunteers working for groups like ACLU and Planned Parenthood to get the word out about exactly what Preposition 85 means. And it's big destruction for us when, you know, we could be using our time and money for other things.

CONAN: Well, I think it's probably a result of the magnifying glass and reading glasses lobby, which is a…

(Soundbite of laughter)

NATALIE: Exactly. And I think some people don't know that you can go in and just vote on the few things that they really bothered to educate themselves about and leave other things blank and just go home.

CONAN: Natalie, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

NATALIE: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And finally, before we let you go. We mentioned the ballot initiative in Michigan, where voters will decide whether to repeal a recently enacted law that allows the hunting of mourning doves.

Prof. CRAYTON: Right. It's interesting. Sometimes you'll get, you know, somewhat local issues that kind of catch fire with the public. And when the public is outraged with a decision by the legislature, they can take it to the ballot. This is one of those examples where, perhaps some would argue, you know, public input is actually helpful because it is a very clear issue: You can either like it or not like it and register yes or no on the ballot. But at the same time you'll have people like the caller who will say there are some issues that maybe best left to representative government, and that's sort of the perennial debate with initiatives and referenda.

CONAN: Kareem Crayton, thanks very much for your time.

Prof. CRAYTON: You're quite welcome.

CONAN: Kareem Crayton, assistant professor of law and politics at the University of Southern California Law School, also affiliated with the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC, with us today from the studios of our member station KUSC in Los Angeles.

When we come back from the break, our weekly fix from the Political Junkie. If you have questions for Ken Rudin about close races, election year strategies and the rest of the week's political news. We're going to be talking today about where the parties are inserting home-stretch advertising money and where they're not. Give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail us,

I'm Neal Conan. This is the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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