Fall elections will answer a broad range of questions

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Election season is here. In less than two months millions of Americans in more than two-thirds of the states from Maine to Alaska will be going to the polls.

Should Kentucky governors be allowed run for a second consecutive term? Should citizens in Washington state be allowed to veto future power projects? Should political gerrymandering be banished in Ohio?

These are among scores of questions being asked in this fall's elections.

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Besides more than 1,500 municipal offices, two governorships, and at least 350 state legislative seats, a broad range of government borrowing proposals, state constitutional changes, city charter revisions, and controversial laws are at issue on Nov. 3 ballots.

The most volatile ballot battle appears to be shaping in Washington State. Foes of a petition to require voter approval of bonds for public power projects have launched a media blitz. It is expected to be one of the costliest campaigns of its kind in the nation, with outspent environmentalists pitted against nuclear energy enthusiasts whose cause could be dealt a serious setback if voters endorse the initiative measure.

Dominating Ohio voters' attention in the coming weeks may be an initiative to provide a new mechanism for both congressional and legislative redistricting.

Under the measure pushed by a coalition of civic groups known as FAIR (Fair and Impartial Redistricting), any individual could present a plan for dividing the state. A new bipartisan commission would then choose the one that best measures up to the "one-man, one-vote" principle and provides the greatest degree of compactness.

Voters in New Jersey will decide not only on a new governor but also whether the chief executive should have the power to "pocket veto" legislation passed in the waning days of a lawmaking session. The proposed constitutional change would provide for a special sitting of the state Senate and General Assembly to consider -- and possibly override -- measures the governor rejects.

In neighboring New York, the big statewide ballot issue involves a $500 million bond authorization for improved and expanded correctional institutions. A proposal to double the borrowing ceiling from $150 million to $300 million, for the Jobs Development Authority also will be before the electorate.

In Pennsylvania, voters will decide whether to establish a legislative reapportionment commission to designate state Senate and House districts. Also on the ballots are proposals to restrict the use of aviation fuel excise tax revenues to aviation-related projects, and extend state retirement pension coverage to the spouses of beneficiaries.

Antinuclear activists in Maine have proposed establishing an elected state public service commission to regulate utilities. The commission could veto all power projects and would be directed to explore alternative renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar, and hydro.

Besides this initiative, three possible changes in the state constitution are on the ballot. One would limit the time to gather signatures for future initiatives to the year in which the question will appear on the ballot. Another proposal would require candidates and members of the Maine House of Representatives to be residents of the district they represent.

Kentucky voters will decide whether to broaden the homestead property tax exemption to cover totally disabled persons as well as the elderly already covered.

The second proposed constitution change in the Blue Grass State would clear the way for governor and other statewide officers to serve two consecutive four-year terms. This means that incumbent chief executive John Y. Brown could seek reelection in 1983.

Voters in Washington, D.C., will be electing a 45-member charter commission to draft a proposed state constitution to be submitted later for voter consideration and congressional approval.

The District's ballot also contains a measure to provide up to $1,200 per pupil in tuition credit on city income taxes.

The second state, besides New Jersey, with a gubernatorial election is Virginia. Ballots in the latter, however, will contain no statewide referendums.

Virginia will fill all 100 seats in its House of Delegates. Kentucky will elect half of its 38 senators and all 100 representatives. Besides the governorship in New Jersey, all 40 Senate seats and 80 Assembly chairs are at stake.

Several other states will use their Nov. 3 ballots to fill legislative vacancies.

At least 39 cities with populations in excess of 100,000 are electing mayors. And a couple dozen others, which either are run by appointed managers or whose top chair is not at stake this year, are electing city councilors and other local officials.

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