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Ballot measures: Land of the freer?

LIFE in parts of America may soon be easier for gays, gamblers, hunters, potheads, euthanisers, car-insurance salesmen, grammarians and horses. The 174 measures that have reached the ballot across 38 states this November include the usual array of tax proposals, bond issues and constitutional tweaks. An unusually high number of referendums, in which voters can reject laws passed by legislators, reflects the polarisation of state politics. But votes in several states will provide an insight into America’s changing mores.Take gay marriage. Advocates have lost 34 of 35 statewide votes since 1998 (the exception, in Arizona in 2006, was overturned in another vote two years later). But now most Americans say they favour extending marriage rights to gay couples. Four states will vote in November.In Maine, Maryland and Washington, where successful outcomes would allow gay marriage, polls find slim majorities in favour. Minnesota, where voters will consider a constitutional ban, is too close to call. Foes of gay marriage note that polls tend to exaggerate their rivals’ case. But the odds are that marriage equality will…

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