Next Tuesday, ballots across the nation will be larded with weighty, controversial ballot initiatives asking voters to decide on everything from abortion to gay marriage to legalized marijuana. Some of the questions are a little more quirky, however. Here, four of the most surprising issues that will be put to a vote:
1. Mandatory condoms in porn
Voters in Los Angeles County will be asked to weigh in on a fraught issue in the area's infamous adult-film business, one of SoCal's most lucrative industries: Whether its stars should be required to use condoms on-camera. The Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act — also known as Measure B — wound up on the ballot after activists took the local health department to court to require that condoms be used in adult movies shot in L.A. to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. "Self regulation has failed miserably when it comes to the porn industry," says Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Film producers aren't giving up without a fight. "This isn't the government's place," says Steven Hirsch of Vivid Entertainment, a leading maker of XXX fare. "In a time when we have huge budget deficits, [county officials] are going to take their time and energy to figure out how to police an industry that does a fine job of policing itself."
2. Ownership of the Grand Canyon
Thanks to pressure from state Republicans, Arizona voters will be asked to make a controversial decision that might interest millions of vacationers: Namely, whether millions of acres, including the Grand Canyon, should remain in the hands of the federal government, or become the property of the residents of Arizona. The measure, Proposition 120, is part of the so-called sagebrush revolt being waged by Republicans in the West seeking to regain control of vast expanses of land now under the aegis of various federal agencies. The ballot initiative, if passed, will amend the state's constitution to declare Arizona's sovereignty over the "air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife, and other natural resources within the state's boundaries." Republicans say federal ownership of the land is hampering the state's ability to fuel its own economy. But detractors say the state is already overburdened: "They can't even fund and ensure that their [state] parks are protected, so how they would take on an additional 25 to 30 million acres of land is a big question mark," Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, tells Reuters.
3. The right to go fishing or trapping
Voters in Nebraska and Wyoming will have the chance to amend their states' constitutions to establish a right to fish and hunt. Four states passed similar initiatives in 2010. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Idaho have been trying to institute a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of fishers, hunters, and trappers against campaigns by animal rights groups, and they finally got the question on the ballot this year. "The trappers were the very first people who came into our state," says Republican state Sen. Lee Heider, who led the effort. "It is a heritage that Idahoans still enjoy." Animal rights groups say the initiative goes too far. "A surprising number of the hunters told us they don't like trapping," says Greg Moore of Idahoans Against Trapping. "Once people learn about it, they are often horrified by it."
4. Equal protection... for pets
"There are no absurdities this year to match, say, Oklahoma's 2010 vote (later struck down) to ban courts from using sharia law in their deliberations," says The Economist. "But fans of American electoral arcana can turn to North Dakota, where Measure 5 takes aim at those who inflict harm on cats, dogs, or horses (cow-tippers seem safe, for now); and to Oregon, where Measure 78 promises improvements to the constitution’s spelling and grammar. And they say voting changes nothing."