Democrats are hoping ballot initiatives in favor of stem cell research and raising the minimum wage will help drive voter turnout in the upcoming election. Republicans pioneered the initiative strategy, but this time around the electorate seems to be suffering from gay marriage fatigue.
In 2004, Republicans in Ohio and elsewhere tended to benefit from ballot initiatives. Measures to ban same-sex marriage, for example, passed easily. In the process, some election analysts said, the measures revved the conservative base to help Republican candidates from President Bush on down.
In 2006, Democrats are hoping to prove that ballot politics can work in the other direction. Measures to increase the minimum wage are before voters in six states. Four of those, Arizona, Ohio, Missouri and Montana, feature close Senate races with a GOP incumbent. In Missouri, moreover, a measure backing stem cell research is ahead in the polls—which Democrats say could lift their candidate.
In Ohio, recent polls show that at least 70 percent of voters support an initiative to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.85 and index it to inflation. A coalition of labor unions, faith groups and liberal activists is working to pass it. If their efforts also pump up voter turnout for Democrats, Brown said, he is happy for the help.
“Some people will vote because of the minimum wage,” Brown said in an interview. “I think it will help bring out voters. I’m guessing those voters will vote for Democrats. It’s up to us to make sure they do.”