Anti-war referenda pass in heartland, New England

From the Capital Times of Madison, WI, Nov. 8:

Organizers of a movement to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq are lauding success at the ballot box from Wisconsin to Massachusetts.

Nine Wisconsin communities weighed in on measures calling for troop withdrawal, approving all of them.

In Dane County, Middleton’s “Bring the Troops Home” referendum passed 4,498 to 3,191, and a similar measure squeaked by in the town of Springdale.

An anti-war measure passed overwhelmingly in Milwaukee.

Eleven communities in Illinois – including the Chicago metropolitan area comprising about half the state’s electorate – passed troop measures by wide margins. And 36 such measures appeared set for passage in Massachusetts legislative districts.

Steve Burns, the program coordinator for the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice who helped engineer ballot successes in Madison and other communities in April, said the results were “fantastic.”

“Looking at the results in April, it isn’t just a Madison thing,” Burns said. “It’s just really startling.”

Janet Parker, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice vice chair, said anti-war organizations in Illinois and Massachusetts took their lead from Wisconsin, where in April, 24 of 32 municipalities approved anti-war measures.

“The organizers of these referenda in Illinois and Massachusetts have told us that Wisconsin referenda in April were their inspiration,” she said.

They’re shooting for more referendums in the spring.

“I bet after today we’ll be hearing from a lot of places that want it,” she said.

James Railey, 27, said he voted to withdraw the troops, but he’s not sure that’s the best option right now.

“Honestly, I don’t know what the best thing to do is,” said Railey, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “I really just voted ‘yes’ to send a message.”

That message was loud and clear.

In the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee, 72 percent of voters favored the referendum.

The suburbs of South Milwaukee, Fox Point and Wauwatosa followed in step, as did Middleton, the city of Racine, Lake Delton in Sauk County and Boscobel in Grant County, all with approval rates at 58 percent or more.

Only two of the votes were close.

Voters in Viroqua in Vernon County approved it by 52 percent to 48 percent, while voters in Springdale in Dane County passed it by only four votes.

Wes Taylor, a 21-year-old mechanical engineer in Milwaukee, said he’s disappointed with the public’s reaction to Iraq.

“I think people are getting confused with who is really to blame and who needs to be called out on the war. I think it’s shooting the messenger to not support the troops,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want to be over there, but they’re just doing their jobs.”

Opponents of the referendums said problems left by a quick troop withdrawal from Iraq could be worse.

“It’s up to us to see it through to victory. My hope is that we’ll complete this mission,” said Sam Johnson, vice president of Vote No to Cut and Run. “We have come a long way, and we’ve accomplished a lot in Iraq. It’s not something that’s simply going to go away in a week.”

The opinions of the voters reflected that uncertainty of what to do while voting to bring the troops home.

“We have to be mindful that we went in there and wrecked the place,” said 68-year-old Tom Christofferson, a Milwaukee resident voting for the withdrawal. “I wish I had the answer.”

While all anti-war initiatives passed, a pro-war measure in Ozaukee County did as well. Voters there agreed by a 2-to-1 margin on the issue of supporting the nation’s “war on terror” in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere until “organized terrorism is eliminated.”

From the Boston Globe, Nov. 7:

From the Berkshires to parts of Boston, voters in more than one-third of Massachusetts’ cities and towns will have a chance today to register their opinion about the war in Iraq.

Voters in 36 Massachusetts House districts, covering all or part of 139 municipalities, will be asked whether their state representative should be instructed to vote for a resolution calling on President Bush and Congress to end the war immediately and bring the troops home.

The nonbinding question, advanced by a loose coalition of peace groups and other activists, is one of the nation’s most ambitious antiwar referendums, said Paul Shannon, a statewide coordinator of the ballot effort for the American Friends Service Committee.

Irene Getman of Waltham, whose grandson is serving with the Army in Baghdad, said she planned to hold a sign outside a polling station this morning despite a sore throat.

“I think we’ve been there too long, we’ve lost too many boys, and it just keeps getting worse and worse,” Getman said.

“People are increasingly frustrated and fed up with this war, and that gives this a very good chance of passing,” said Sue Genser, a member of Waltham Concerned Citizens. “We’re going to end this war from the bottom up.” Shannon said volunteers collected more than 10,000 signatures across the state. Two hundred verified signatures were required in each House district to put the question on the ballot.

“We feel that if people really do take the time to focus on this when they’re in the voter’s booth, they’ll come to the conclusion that this war is not in the welfare of the country,” Shannon said.

See our last posts on the anti-war movement and the municipal anti-war revolt.