While Americans from sea to sea followed the see-sawing Presidential vote-totals and electoral counts, our Prop. 203 won a huge landslide in land- locked Arizona, capturing 63% of the vote. This twenty-six point margin of victory was further underscored by the interesting circumstances surrounding other Arizona campaigns.
Although Arizona is widely viewed as a solidly Republican and conservative state, and therefore a sure win for Gov. George Bush, this did not prove entirely correct.
Republicans do hold the governorship, both U.S. Senate seats, both houses of the state legislature, and nearly all the statewide offices. With such a united Party machine behind him and the enthusiastic backing of home-state favorite Sen. John McCain, Bush was expected to win easily, even without the large party spending on his behalf or his major editorial endorsements. The Gore campaign had completely written the state off, without spending a day or a dollar on votes there.
But when the totals came in, Bush had received barely 50% of the Arizona vote, with his five point margin of victory largely due to the three points received by Green candidate Ralph Nader. If Nader had not run, the state might well have been rated almost a toss-up.
By contrast, Prop. 203 was opposed by the state’s top Republican elected officials, thousands of committed activists, all the state’s major newspapers, and was outspent nearly 10-1 during the four months preceding the election—yet won by a margin of victory nearly six times greater than that of the Texas governor.
The contrast with voucher proposals, on the ballot in California and Michigan, is also quite striking. Prop. 38, California’s sweeping voucher measure, spent $25 million on advertising, and lost by 40 points; a more cautious voucher measure in Michigan spent nearly $20 million as well, and lost by an almost exactly similar margin. Our Arizona “English” campaign spent only one one-thousandth as much—around $25,000—on advertising, and won by 26 points. As a theoretical physicist by training, I find this controlled experiment a strong indication of the relative views of most voters on vouchers and “English.”
Given so many close state votes around the country, and the enormous polling support for “English” almost everywhere, I strongly suspect that serious state or national candidates willing to back such a popular idea would have easily saved voters from the need for a late election night vigil or our current constitutional controversy.
Perhaps at some point, some politicians will begin to see the light. Meanwhile, another 150,000 immigrant students in Arizona will begin learning English at the beginning of the next school year.