Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
On the morning of November 5, 2008, the day after Election Day, social conservatives may be celebrating Florida's vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Alternatively, social conservatives may be bemoaning the results of the vote. Or both, simultaneously.
The amendment, which recently reached the number of signatures needed to make the ballot, requires 60 percent of the vote to pass. If recent history is a guide, that will be a tough threshold to reach.
Of the eight states that voted on gay marriage bans in 2006, support in only three, South Carolina, Idaho and Tennessee, surpassed 60 percent. The amendments came up short of that mark in each of the swing states to vote (Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin and Arizona, where it failed to reach 50 percent).
Plus, popular Republican Governor Charlie Crist's support for the proposal is somewhere between tepid and non-existent. Thus, social conservatives are likely to lose the vote on the amendment itself.
However, the amendment may induce more conservatives to come to the polls. If they do, and if those voters also punch the chad of the Republican presidential nominee, the gay marriage measure could swing Florida's crucial electoral votes to the G.O.P., without even passing.
That possibility is probably one reason the Florida Republican Party spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting the petition drive, until Crist told them to stop. Electing a Republican president would, of course, more than make up for the amendment's defeat in the eyes of many conservatives.
All of that being said, I'm skeptical of the ability of ballot measures to influence presidential election turnout. Is there really a large group of people who don't care enough about politics to vote in a presidential election, but do care what the state constitution says on gay marriage?
Then again, in a state where 537 votes decided the 2000 presidential election every vote really does count -- assuming, that is, all the votes are counted properly.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.