The old truism, "As goes California, so goes the nation," might be due for a rewrite. From today's San Francisco Chronicle:
If you believe the polls…then Washington voters are poised to legalize two things Californians haven't: same-sex marriage and marijuana.
That's right, the home of the Castro and the Emerald Triangle is about to get upstaged by a state best known for its banana slugs. What happened?
Well, first off, all the crazy hippies got priced out of San Francisco and opened up yoga retreats, third-wave espresso shops, and organic farms in and around Seattle and Portland. I exaggerate only slightly.
Second, and more important, Washington state has fewer churchgoers than California, and especially fewer conservative ones. When the Catholic Church supported Prop. 8, California's gay marriage ban, it could count on its message being heard by the 29 percent of Californians who are Catholic. Catholics account for less than 12 percent of Washingtonians.
And then there's the reefer. California has lots of it, perhaps a surfeit. In 2008, majorities of voters in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, the so-called Emerald Triangle, rejected Prop 19, not because they didn't like tokers, but because they worried that legal weed would decrease margins for the area's pot farmers.
In the case of both ballot issues, Washington has learned from California's mistakes. Gay-rights advocates have framed marriage as a universal family value rather than just a civil right. And pot activists have neutralized opposition from law enforcement by including a provision that bans driving with high blood levels of THC, a rule absent from California's Prop. 19.
So has Washington stolen California's thunder? Maybe, but at least it's not raining down here.
California's Prop. 30, a tax on the rich that would fund ailing schools and universities, has some unlikely foes.
Josh HarkinsonNov. 2, 2012 6:08 AM
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (top left) has a Ph.D from Cal, which faces severe cuts if Prop. 30 loses.
Growing up in California in the late '60s, Steve Jobs built electronics in his public high school's well-appointed tech lab. His future business partner, Steve Wozniak, studied electrical engineering at UC Berkeley. In 1978, two years after founding Apple, Jobs and Wozniak landed a major investment from Sequoia Capital, which would become one of Silicon Valley's leading venture capital firms in large part by investing in ideas dreamed up at California universities.
Given the importance of education to Silicon Valley's knowledge-based economy, one might expect its business elite to campaign for Proposition 30, a November ballot initiative authored by Gov. Jerry Brown that would prevent devastating cuts to the budgets of public schools and universities, mostly by taxing the wealthy. But instead of bankrolling Prop. 30, investors from Sequoia and dozens of other technology and tech-investment firms have pumped close to $1 million into defeating it.
Translation: "This election, if you've got it, show it."
Early this month, a federal judge partially overturned Pennsylvania's voter ID law, ruling that the state couldn't require voters to show photo identification at the polls until after the 2012 election. But the ruling has not stopped the state from running ads suggesting otherwise—ads that have disproportionately targeted urban and minority communities that tend to vote for Democrats.
In English, the billboard pictured above reads: "This election, if you've got it, show it." It is one of 58 billboards erected by Pennsylvania's Republican-led Department of State, mostly in Democratic-leaning Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Though Latinos make up only 6 percent of the state's population, about 20 percent of the billboards are in Spanish. Similar Spanish-language ads appear on public buses.
Illustration by Jason HolleyIt's late June in North Dakota, and Galen Grote and I are bouncing over his cattle ranch in a Chevy pickup with the radio tuned to "Hair Nation." Grote's vast fields of wheatgrass bring to mind Axl Rose getting a blow-dry—a wind-tossed mane of turf stretching across the fertile remnants of ancient glaciers and river deltas. The earthbound wealth here in the Missouri Plateau convinced Grote's great-grandfather to homestead this land a century ago—long before anyone knew of the liquid riches beneath it.
After passing sloughs full of coots and mallards, we arrive at the dusty pad where an Oklahoma-based oil company called Continental Resources has hit pay dirt. A gleaming new jack pump siphons up crude and flares off fireballs of gas. All over this part of the state, Continental's rigs have corkscrewed through nearly two miles of limestone, gravel, and sandstone to tap the Bakken and Three Forks reservoirs, oil-rich bands of shale that formed millions of years ago from what was once an inland sea. This Sri Lanka-sized mineral vein straddling Montana, North Dakota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan is now the heart of America's new oil boom, the largest domestic find since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay more than 40 years ago. Continental's founder and CEO, Harold Hamm, the dominant player in the Bakken rush, estimates that there is as much oil here as has been discovered in the rest of the United States put together.
More MoJo coverage of the fracking industry's political influence:
Tapping the Bakken has already made Hamm one of America's richest oil barons, and North Dakota now rivals Texas as the top-producing oil state, with an economy hotter than a Houston sidewalk in August. In 2011, tax proceeds were up 44 percent from the year before, prompting a ballot measure that attempted (unsuccessfully) to abolish property taxes. Thousands of new oil jobs have given North Dakota the nation's lowest unemployment rate (3 percent) and overwhelmed cattle country with an influx of fortune seekers. Ranching hamlets that once had five-minute rush hours now endure endless caravans of exhaust-spewing tanker trucks filled with oil, fracking fluids, and "hot loads" of drilling waste.
See how your state fits into the nation's bewildering patchwork of election laws.
Josh Harkinson, Tasneem Raja, and Ben BreedloveOct. 22, 2012 6:03 AM
"Suffrage is the pivotal right," Susan B. Anthony once said. Yet nearly 100 years after her death, our ability to vote still pivots a great deal upon who we are and where we live. Some states bar felons from voting or require proof of American citizenship. Others only ask that you mail in a ballot, take an oath, or show up at the polls. Can you vote in the next election? Take our quiz to find out, or to see how your state fits into our nation's bewildering patchwork of election laws.*
*This quiz is not intended as a stand-alone guide to election laws. If you are unsure whether you qualify to vote, we suggest double-checking your state's registration and voting requirements here.