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States Vote on Stem Cell Research, Same-Sex Marriage, Other Measures
Ballot initiatives give voters the opportunity to make new laws


Voters in 34 states voted on more than 150 ballot initiatives, including measures on stem cell research, same-sex marriages, decriminalization of marijuana, and residency requirements for state welfare benefits or voting.

California voters approved by a significant margin a measure that will allocate $3 billion to human embryonic stem cell research. About 59 percent of the 9.5 million people who cast ballots on the measure voted in favor of such research. The Bush administration has placed restrictions on government-funded stem cell research and the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups oppose these kinds of experiments because stem cells are harvested from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process. The measure, Proposition 71, authorizes the state government to sell $3 billion in bonds and dispense about $300 million a year to researchers. Supporters of the research argue that it holds great promise for developing treatments for a wide range of diseases.

Voters also registered their disapproval of same-sex marriages in all 11 states where the issue was on the ballot. The voters approved measures in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In some of the states, the measure also banned same-sex couples from receiving benefits as "domestic partners." No state explicitly allows same-sex marriages, although such civil unions have been taking place in several states.

Voters in Alaska defeated a measure by a considerable margin to decriminalize the use of marijuana. Meanwhile, voters in Montana approved an initiative to allow the medical use of marijuana, but in Oregon voters defeated a measure to significantly expand medical use of the substance.

In Arizona, voters approved by a significant margin an initiative that would require proof of citizenship to register to vote and to get Arizona state welfare benefits. The initiative requires that state and local government officials confirm the legal residency of applicants for welfare benefits and requires that they report suspected illegal aliens who apply for the benefits. This requirement would not apply to federal benefits. The governor of Arizona and a coalition of other groups opposed the initiative.

In Colorado, voters defeated an initiative that would have divided the state's nine electoral votes proportionally according to how many popular votes the two presidential candidates received. Instead, the state continued to give all its electoral votes to the candidate winning more than 50 percent of the vote. If approved, the measure was supposed to take effect immediately, so it could have been significant if Colorado's electoral votes became crucial to a victory by President Bush or Senator Kerry.

Voters in other states also voted on limits on medical malpractice claims, the minimum wage, employee-paid health care and many other issues. Not all states allow these kinds of ballot initiatives.