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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Anti-Draft Ballot Initiatives for 2006?


Okay so I admit I have spent the past few months in reluctant admiration of Karl Rove. The anti-gay marriage initiative was like red meat for the knuckle-draggers, luring millions to the ballot box to cast their vote against a future filled with fine window treatments, Limoges china and color-coordinated gym ensembles. Or whatever the hell it was they thought they were voting against, I just don't know, who can tell with people whose only exposure to gays is half an episode of Queer Eye. But while they were at it, they took the trouble to hang a chad for fellow homophobe GWB. And the rest is history.

But it got me to thinking. Because sometimes that's what I do. Like others before me, I wondered how the Democrats might adapt Rove's tactics, just not in the pursuit of Pure Evil.

Is it possible to use anti-draft initiatives to pro-actively combat the possibility of a draft, as well as lure young anti-war voters to the ballot boxes in 2006?

As this disastrous war continues apace, it is abundantly clear that the military just does not have the personnel to fight it. Lt Gen James Hemly, Chief of the US Army Reserve, said in December that the draft might have to be reinstated. And just this week, an internal memorandum came to light in which he said that the Reserves are understaffed and "rapidly degenerating into a broken force."

Of course, states do not have the power to regulate what the federal government does with regard to a draft. They do, however, have the power make the efforts of the Selective Service easy or hard, and they certainly have the ability to advise the President not to resort to a draft, and cause him grievous political embarrassment in the process.

According to the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD), 13 states have laws that automatically register males between the ages of 18 and 26 for the draft by linking Selective Service registration with driver's license applications. Ballot measures could be used to strike them down, or pro-actively, to keep them from being enacted.

On the other hand, legislation can be advisory in tone, much like the Maine resolution of 2002 to advise the President to pursue a diplomatic solution to Iraq rather than go to war.

For the sake of discussion, this is the process of getting an initiative on the ballot in states that allow them:

1. The initiative process in any state can be found by going to They have a comprehensive website full of information about what type of initiatives and referenda are allowed in each state, as well as downloadable pdf's from each Secretary of State outlining what has to be done to qualify.

2. The proposal must be drafted according to the law as expressed in the state's handbook. I'm gonna guess that if anyone does this, they will find plenty of help with language and legalities by posting on the DailyKos.

3. The petition must be submitted to the Secretary of State and a registration or processing fee paid. Sometimes approval is limited to title and format; other states require complete legal review.

4. Upon approval, the petition must be circulated. The number of signatures required is usually determined as a percentage of the votes in the state's last election for governor.

5. Enough signatures must be collected and returned by the deadline. In Oregon, for example, the deadline was July 2, 2004 for the November election.

6. Then the state verifies the signatures. If enough signatures are verified, the measure is placed on the ballot.

In addition to luring young voters to the ballot box to vote Democratic if for no other reason than saving their own hides, the fact that such anti-draft activity is going on would naturally generate press and highlight the reality of what continuing to support long-term war in Iraq (and now, potentially Iran) would mean to the country on an individual, personal basis.

It would force wingers into the awkward position of having to come out against such measures and yet at the same time declare that there is no danger of an impending draft.

It would give people a concrete measure to rally around, rather than expressing vague rage at the machine that keeps pumping its citizens into body bags in the quest for black gold.

And best of all, it just might keep GWB from churning the nation's young into the imperial pipeline that he simply must feed or his insane, megalomaniacal plans for perpetual war with the Middle East will come to an end. Anywhere else in the world, these would be treated like the delusional rantings of some coked-up bullshit artist looking with dread at the sun coming up while screaming that the night was still young. But hey, this is America, where we take our cokeheads very seriously.

So I open up the floor to people who probably know much better than I do what the feasibility is of a proposal like this. Would it work? Or have I just been suckered into the whole "Rove is a genius" thing, too?

The floor is yours.

(Special thanks to Linda M., who did much of the research for this diary in an effort to get me to stop jabbering about the idea and finally put it to paper.)