Election 2008

economy, voting and election, election day

How the Economy May Affect Voter Decision Making

October 29, 2008 08:31 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Current economic woes could weigh heavily on the minds of voters this Election Day, as they make tough decisions about state spending at the polls.

Local Economies and Voter Decisions

The nation’s current financial crisis will give voters something more to consider when they make decisions on local economic spending issues this Election Day.

For example, Californians will be voting on whether to approve a $9.95 billion bond to begin construction of a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco. “My guess is that a majority of the voters instinctively would be favorable of it,” Tracey Westen, CEO of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies, told the Los Angeles Daily News. “They may have second thoughts when they look at the price tag.”

The bond measure has lost its spot on the ballot before, once in 2004 because of economic concerns, and again in 2006 because funding was needed for road improvements.

This and other measures around the country may seem too expensive because they “reflect assumptions that no longer apply after recent turmoil in the stock and credit markets,” according to Daniel Wagner of the Associated Press. “Some of these could be disastrous if they happen … It could throw government into a tizzy, because there’s not a plan for what to do next,” Donald Boyd, a senior fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government explained.

South Dakota residents, meanwhile, are addressing an issue that some officials have said contributed to the current situation on Wall Street. Voters must decide whether to permit the state to prosecute firms that engage in naked short selling of stock. The measure qualified for the state’s ballot almost a year ago, but some called the idea “baffling and, probably, unnecessary.”

Dionne Searcey and Easha Anand of The Wall Street Journal wrote that supporters of the idea “are feeling a touch clairvoyant.”

A Different Sort of Conundrum

North Dakota finds itself in a slightly different situation than many other states this year. Voters must decide whether to approve one of the largest income tax cuts of the last 30 years. Taxes on oil and farm commodities have contributed to what the state treasury believes will be more than a $1 billion budget surplus when its fiscal period ends on June 30.

If approved, the plan would reduce individual income tax rates by 50 percent and corporate by 15 percent. School teachers, college officials and government employees, however, are fighting the measure, saying education and other programs will suffer.

Opinion & Analysis: An abundance of social issues

Although polls indicate that voters see the economy and presidential race as the most important issues in this year’s election, state ballots still contain a considerable number of social measures. Arizona and California voters will decide on gay marriage bans, Washington is considering a measure allowing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, and Colorado is trying to decide whether fertilized eggs deserve “the legal definition of personhood.”

As far as how these matters will affect which candidates are elected this year, Daniel A. Smith of the University of Florida, and other experts told The Hill that they likely won’t be large factors in election races.

Related Topic: The presidential election and the economy


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