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Voters Head to the Polls Today in 2008 Election Preview

November 6, 2007

Voters head to the polls today in 14 states in a warm up to the 2008 election. Two states will elect statewide constitutional officers; four will hold legislative elections and voters in eight states will cast votes for ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments.

This year, legislative races in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia could have far reaching effects because all four states have races so close that the controlling party in the legislature could change. Democrats made substantial gains in the 2006 legislative races, and they now have control of both chambers in 22 states. Republicans control both chambers in 15 states and in 12 states control is divided between the parties. That means this year's election is especially important because party shifts in these states could be an indicator of the course of the 2008 elections. Additionally, the parties that gain control in theses four states will draw the plans for their congressional districts following the 2010 census. Voters in Louisiana have already chosen the majority of their elected officials in primary elections held in October. In their system, Louisiana conducts a “nonpartisan” primary election where all candidates participate in a first election. If no candidate receives a majority of all votes cast, a "run-off" is held between the top two candidates. Democrats retained control of the Senate by winning 22 seats, while Republications won 13 seats and four will be decided in a runoff on November 17. In the House, Republicans won 30 seats, Democrats won 33, one no party candidate won a seat and 40 seats will be decided in the runoff election.

Louisiana’s October 20 gubernatorial primary resulted in a win for Republican candidate Bobby Jindal, changing the partisan control of the Governor's office in the state and avoiding an anticipated gubernatorial run-off election.

Many will also be drawn to the polls by a variety of ballot measures, several of which impact the real estate industry. Oregon voters will have the chance to roll back a restrictive property rights measure they passed in 2004. The existing law requires state and local governments to allow property owners to develop land or compensate owners if the land use regulations (such as a zoning restriction) decrease the value of the property. Ballot Measure 49 modifies the law’s intent by allowing landowners the right to build a limited number of homes on their property as compensation for land use regulations imposed after they bought their property. It also prohibits subdivisions on high-value farmlands, forests and groundwater-restricted lands, and specifies that claimants may not use Measure 37 to override zoning laws prohibiting commercial and industrial developments on land reserved for homes, farms and forests.

Voters in Texas will consider Proposition 7 which would allow a governmental entity to sell property acquired through eminent domain back to the previous owner at its original purchase price, if the public use of the property has been canceled, if no progress toward the public use is made by a prescribed deadline, or if the property is unnecessary to accomplish a public use.

Stay tuned for an election recap in Thursday’s News You Can Use.



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