Voters reshape legal landscape in Arizona
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 8, 2006
Amanda J. Crawford and Pat Kossan
Arizonans made sweeping changes to state law on Tuesday, ushering in a higher
minimum wage, passing a strict statewide smoking ban and a higher tobacco tax,
improving living conditions for some farm animals and restricting cities' use of
Sending a loud message to national policymakers on immigration, voters here on
the front line of the border battle overwhelmingly approved all three ballot
initiatives targeting illegal immigrants and made English the state's official
But in one of the tightest contests of the election, it appeared as of late last
night that Arizona voters could be the first in the nation to reject a
constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Proposition 107, which would
define marriage as one man and one woman and block governments from recognizing
domestic partnerships, was behind by a slim margin at press time but was still
too close to call.
A measure supported by environmental groups to preserve state trust land was
also too close to call, while a competing measure offered by the Legislature
Voters soundly rejected a pay raise for legislators and two proposals to
increase voter turnout by holding a voter lottery and increase the use of
With 19 propositions on the ballot, Arizona voters had to weigh more issues than
anywhere else in the nation. In raising the minimum wage, they followed national
trends, but could set national history if the marriage ban fails.
Fred Solop, director of the social research laboratory at Northern Arizona
University, said if the marriage ban fails, it shows that the unique strategy
used by opponents here paid off.
Opponents focused on the impact of the initiative not on gay couples but on
unmarried couples gay and straight who would lose domestic-partner health
benefits offered by government employers if it passes.
Solop said that the message from voters was clear on the immigration
"People are defining immigration as one of the most important issues of the
election season," he said. "They are willing to embrace any and every solution
that is put on the table."
Bruce Merrill, a political science professor and pollster at Arizona State
University, said he doesn't think that the election brought many surprises.
He said people in Arizona are frustrated that the federal government has not
listened to them and has done nothing to protect this country's borders from
"The people of Arizona, Republicans and Democrats, have very strong feelings
that something needs to be done," he said.
Merrill said voters stood up for fairness by approving the minimum-wage hike and
possibly rejecting the gay marriage ban.
"America has an incredible sense of fairness and if you violate that voters
really come down on you hard," he said.