Election Day, Nov. 2, 2010, was anything but ordinary. Odd nonbinding questions unrelated to legislation appeared, a deceased senator won an election and that same week a small group of people banned Happy Meals in San Francisco. Voters are not always privy to what’s on the ballots in other precincts and states. In case you missed them, here are five oddities from the 2010 Midterm Election.
1. Public Nudity in Massachusetts
The nonbinding ballot question asked voters if women should be able to walk around topless. The 3rd Berkshire District in Massachusetts, with a population of 40,000 people, was asked to vote on a nonbinding ballot question to revise the existing Massachusetts public nudity law. According to The Berkshire Eagle, there were 6,855 votes against changing the law and 2,934 votes in favor of revising the law.
“Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to support legislation that would amend the state’s definition of nudity, so that no part of the female breast is included, and so that females of any age may be unclothed from the waist up in public anywhere males may be, including in print and on film?”
Public nudity and “indecent exposure” in Massachusetts includes areola exposure. Typically, nonbinding ballot questions stem from legislation which has been introduced in Massachusetts. The public nudity ballot question is not connected to any pending legislation.
Different Than the Law Protecting Breastfeeding
This was not a law about breastfeeding, it was about the right to public nudity. Breastfeeding in public in Massachusetts is currently protected by Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 111 § 221 (2008).
2. Happy Meals “Banned” in San Francisco
Ronald McDonald is crying thanks to a new ordinance in San Francisco. Although the headlines have focused on Happy Meals, the ordinance requires “restaurant kids’ meals meet certain nutritional standards before they could be sold with toys.” This could also affect kids’ meals sold by Subway and Burger King.
Technically it’s not truly a “ban,” since McDonald’s can adjust their recipes, portions or rethink how to give away toys with food. They would need to adjust the ratios of fat, sugar and calories and provide more vegetables and fruits if the meal also includes a toy.
The real problem with this ordinance is that it wasn’t the public who voted yes on a ballot. The ordinance was passed by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in an 8 to 3 vote. Regardless of the good intentions behind the ordinance and if you agree with it, do you think 11 people should be deciding this for the 776,733 residents of San Francisco without their input? That does not sound like democracy in action.
3. Deceased State Senator Wins
In another California election oddity, Jenny Oropeza (Dem.) was re-elected to the California State Senate. This is a case of slow bureaucracy in action, as the incumbent candidate’s name remained on the ballot. She had passed away “after a lengthy illness” two weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Now a special election needs to be held.
4. Sharia Law Banned: Oklahoma
Oklahoma has voted to ban the use of Sharia law in Oklahoma courts, although it was not being used anyway in any court cases. Was the passage a preemptive strike against a real threat, or a result of scare tactics fueled by religious intolerance? Are there no greater issues facing the people of Oklahoma right now? The law is being challenged, according to “The Wall Street Journal.”
5. Official Language of Oklahoma is English
In Oklahoma, “official state actions” must be in English. The United States has no official language. Oklahoma joins 30 other states (including Massachusetts) in declaring English as the official language of Oklahoma, according to The Oklahoman.
According to Tulsa World, the Census numbers show that Oklahoma’s Hispanic population increased 67 percent since 2000. According to the U.S. Census table for Languages Spoken at Home for the Population 5 Years and Over by State, of the total Oklahoma population of 3,215,719, there are 2,977,187 who speak English at home, while 238,532 speak a language other than English; only 11,349 of those over 18 “do not speak English at all.” English did not appear to be in much jeopardy without the law.