The citizen's initiative has a long and noble history in U.S elections, but allowing anyone with an adequately supported petition to propose his own ordinances or amendments has led to some odd ballot measures — such as the one facing Denver voters, who'll be asked this November to weigh in on the wisdom of setting up a civic commission on UFOs and extraterrestrials. Here's the scoop on this and other current or recent proposals:
An E.T. watch for Denver?
Jeff Peckman, a self-described "entrepreneur," has gathered enough support to put to a vote a proposal for a seven-man commission to gather evidence of UFOs and beings from outer space. "There could be some good things that come from E.T. contact," he says, citing "possible business opportunities or medical treatments." His opposition: A group calling themselves "MIB" — that's the Mission for Inhibiting Bureaucracy, not Men In Black. Whatever happens, quips Aol News' David Moye, no other vote this fall will have "more universal impact."
A new name for Rhode Island?
This November, Rhode Island voters will decide whether to shorten the state's name from "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" to the pithier "The State of Rhode Island." Some feel the use of "plantations" could be "misconstrued as insensitive when it comes to the issue of slavery," says WHEC.com. The wordier version is hardly even used, says Mark Patinkin at The Providence Journal, though it offers a certain distinction: "In a state that doesn’t often stand out nationally, our name remains the longest of any of the 50."
A ban on divorce?
One California resident tried to satirize the opposition to Proposition 8 — California's initiative to ban gay marriage — by putting a measure to ban divorce on this November's ballot, though he ultimately failed to collect enough signatures. "Prop 8 did not go far enough in protecting traditional marriage," says would-be activist John Marcotte, a writer for the pop-culture blog, Badmouth.net. Quickly regrouping, he renamed his campaign's website "2012 California Marriage Protection Act."
The George W. Bush sewage plant?
Election night 2008 must have been hard enough for the departing President Bush without the knowledge that voters in San Francisco were also deciding whether to satirically name a sewage plant in his honor. The ballot initiative failed by a 70-30 margin — perhaps, commented Joe Eskenazi at San Francisco Weekly, because the city pointed out that the name change would cost $50,000 and might offend plant employees. Nevertheless, added Eskenazi, "Bush and his ideological companions were flushed down the drain" that night anyway.