Election Day 2013: six of the most riveting votes

In the off-year elections Nov. 5, Americans are voting to elect two governors and 305 mayors and decide numerous ballot initiatives. But it's a slow year for the hot-button "wedge" issues that drive some voters to the polls. Still, important nationwide issues are revealing themselves at state and municipal levels, offering glimpses into evolving social values and political strategies. Here are six of the day's most gripping votes.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
A voter holds a cupcake decorated with the Democratic ticket at a polling station at Spring Hill Elementary School in McLean, Virginia November 5, 2013. Virginia voters went to the polls on Tuesday in a closely watched election for governor.

Washington State: Label GMO foods?

REUTERS/Jason Redmond
People walk past a sign supporting a ballot initiative in Washington State that would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients at the Central Co-op in Seattle, Oct. 29, 2013. Major US food and chemical companies are pouring millions of dollars into efforts to block approval of the initiative.

The fight over whether consumers should be alerted if food contains genetically modified ingredients has become one of the most expensive ballot initiatives in Washington State history, raking in $29 million in contributions from around the globe. Multinational companies Monsanto, General Mills, Pepsi, and Kellogg have led the no-labeling charge, to protect their products from a GMO (genetically modified organism) stigma. They are pitted against Whole Foods, the whimsical Dr. Bronner's soap company, the Center for Food Safety, and the Organic Consumers Association, which argue for giving consumers more information to make purchasing decisions, as information continues to emerge about the potential impacts from genetically modified foods.

If the initiative succeeds, Washington would become the first state to mandate immediate GMO labeling. The measure enjoyed a broad margin of support until recent weeks, when its heavyweight opponents blasted the state's airwaves with ads warning of rising food prices, if avoidance of the GMO label forces companies to find new ingredients.

A similar measure in California lost last November, after Monsanto produced a last-minute burst of ad money to defeat it. Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling laws this summer, but to limit any competitive disadvantage, they will take effect only if and when other states pass similar regulations. 

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