LOS ANGELES - While a measure to legalize marijuana in Nevada appeared to be losing, education ballot issues in California and Florida seemed to be headed for approval from voters yesterday.
Emerging as arguably the most widely discussed measure was Nevada's Ballot Question 9, which inspired a variety of bad jokes about a high roller of another kind in Las Vegas.
The Nevada initiative would have legalized recreational use of marijuana in quantities of 3 ounces or less for adults 21 and older.
On the education front, California voters cast ballots on Proposition 49, a measure introduced by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger aimed at extending after-school tutorial and athletic programs to all public schools. Exit polling from the Los Angeles Times indicated the measure would pass by nearly 2 to 1.
In Florida, voters were deciding on two measures that would reduce class sizes for public elementary schools and would offer preschool to all 4-year-olds. Unofficial results indicated the class size measure was winning by a tiny margin and the preschool measure winning with 59 percent.
From pot to pigs, from secession to same-sex marriage, and from coffee to cockfighting, voters around the nation faced a variety of quixotic and quirky ballot measures.
More than 200 ballot issues promised major shifts in the political, social and, in at least one case, geographic landscapes in 24 states.
In Los Angeles, voters were asked whether to break up the city, spinning off the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood into separate municipalities and leaving Los Angeles as the nation's third-largest city behind Chicago. Early results indicated both measures were on their way to defeat.
In North Dakota, voters were contemplating a much different question: how to keep people. A ballot initiative there proposed offering financial incentives - tax credits and $5,000 toward the repayment of student loans - to residents under 30 who agree to remain in the state.
With 2 percent of precincts reporting, the measure also appeared to going down, losing by 70 percent to 30 percent.
In South Dakota, voters cast ballots on Amendment A, which would authorize juries to nullify certain laws in criminal trials.
Advocates say that if anyone is accused of breaking a law that is viewed as flawed, jurors should be able to say so. Opponents argue that the amendment is dangerous and would make a mockery of the legal system. With 49 percent of precincts reporting, the measure was headed for defeat, 79 percent to 21 percent.
Voters in California and Colorado were deciding on measures that would allow residents to register to vote up until Election Day.
Proponents say the proposals would increase voter participation, but opponents assert they would increase the likelihood of voter fraud. Exit polling from the Los Angeles Times showed the California measure headed for approval, 56 percent to 44 percent.
Voters in Oregon were asked to make it the first state to offer health insurance for all citizens. Measure 23, introduced in response to the failure by the federal government to introduce universal health coverage, would establish a state-operated, single-payer plan covering all kinds of medical problems with virtually no limitations. Early results showed the measure headed for defeat.
Besides Nevada's initiative, Arizona voters were asked to approve a medical marijuana measure. In Ohio voters were rejecting an initiative that would put drug users into treatment programs rather than prison.
Voters in Nevada also cast ballots on a measure that would ban same-sex marriages by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. At least 30 states have banned same-sex marriage either through the legislature or initiative process.
V. Dion Haynes and Karen Brandon are reporters for the Chicago Tribune.