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(CNN Student News) -- November 7, 2006
America Votes 2006 - Take stock of what's at stake as Democrats and Republicans face off in an election showdown.
Ballot Measures - Follow ballot initiatives that could affect some judges' powers in several western states.
MySpace Elections - Surf candidates' online efforts to reach younger voters through social networking sites.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SHANON COOK, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: Glad to have you along for this election day special edition of CNN Student News! I'm Shanon Cook. We'll break down what's at stake in today's election in just a moment. But first, today's headlines. In California, officials want to know what started a raging wildfire that threatened as many as 100 homes. The blaze broke out yesterday in Rialto, 60 miles east of Los Angeles. About 500 acres have been scorched. More than 150 firefighters battled the blaze with trucks, planes and helicopters. Gatorland Park in Orlando, Florida, is closed today. A three-alarm fire tore through the gift shop and ticketing booths yesterday. No one was injured. At least two crocs and two pythons were killed. The park's been open since 1949 and draws about 400,000 visitors annually. New York is stuck with the USS Intrepid for now. The aircraft carrier's getting a $60 million renovation. Tugboats were taking Intrepid to new jersey yesterday for that job. But the trip was scuttled when the ship's propellers got stuck in the mud during the launch attempt.
COOK: It's Election Day. After all the speeches, TV commercials and poll-taking, now its voters who finally get their say. Political big shots crossed the nation yesterday to energize voters. President Bush spoke for Republicans in Florida. Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Democratic candidates in New York, Virginia and Rhode Island. The fight for a congressional majority is playing for all of Washington's marbles. Carl Azuz explains what's at stake in these mid-term elections.
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It's a showdown of national proportions. On one side, Republicans trying to hold down the fort in the House and Senate; on the other, Democrats trying to take over control. And though the town of Washington may be big enough for the two of them, only one can have a majority in each house of Congress.
Here's a look at the Senate right now: 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats, one Independent. A third of these seats are at stake. If Democrats pick up six spots in this shootout, they'll have the majority, and the power in the Senate.
Now for the House: 229 Republicans, 201 Democrats, one Independent...and four vacancies. All 435 seats here are up for grabs. If Democrats gain 15 seats over what they have now, they'll also gain the majority. But all that's easier said than done, with Republicans fighting to hold on to both chambers.
Why should any of this matter to you? Well, the majority party in the House and Senate has greater influence in deciding how the country's run. That includes who gets into the U.S...What the minimum wage is...who pays what in taxes...and what the next steps are in Iraq.
And there is one wild card: Even if Democrats rustle back power in the House and Senate, it's unlikely they'll have a two-thirds majority in either chamber. And since that's what they'd need to override a veto from the Republican president...compromise will be the name of the game, once the smoke clears. Carl Azuz, CNN.
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TBD: Time for some Fast Facts on Election 2006! This election is not just about who sits in the U.S. Capitol, it's also about who sits in your state Capitols, governor's mansions and about laws in your state. A total of 36 governorships are up for grabs. Twenty-two seats have been most recently held by Republicans, and 14 by Democrats. Governors are the chief executive officials in their states. In 46 states this year, voters will elect more than six thousand of the nation's seven thousand-plus state legislators; that's over 83 percent of all legislative seats in the country. And finally, the voters of the nation will also have their say on some laws that govern them. In 37 states, more than 200 ballot measures will be given a YAY or NAY by voters.
COOK: They don't get noticed, but ballot measures can affect voters' lives just as much as congressional races. Under these measures, it's voters who determine law and policy, not the elected officials. Tomorrow, there are more than 207 ballot measures in 37 states; way up from 162 measures in 2004. Some initiatives seek to roll back powers held by judges. Gary Nuremberg explains these ballot box broadsides.
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GARY NURENBERG, CNN REPORTER: The lengthy court battle over whether to withhold life support from a comatose Teri Schiavo angered many on each side and helped highlight growing discontent with the judicial process. Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor tells CNN that, in recent years, she sensed...
RETIRED SUPREME COURT JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR: Unhappiness with judges, and it was erupting all over the country.
NURENBERG: The president taps into that frustration on the campaign trail.
U.S. PRESIDENT GORGE W. BUSH: If you think activist judges should be allowed to redefine our country and issue new laws from the bench, vote Democrat.
NURENBERG: This year, voters in several western states face ballot initiatives that would limit judges actions.
LOUIS JACOBSON, ROLL CALL BALLOT MEASURE ANALYST: South Dakota is definitely the most radical of them.
NURENBERG: It's a state constitutional amendment that critics argue would apply to anyone making judicial decisions, even juries and school boards.
REBECCA LOVE KOURLIS, FORMER COLORADO SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: It would strip judges of the protection of judicial immunity and subject them to possible monetary fines and criminal sanctions.
RON BRANSON, JAIL4JUDGES: People are just finding that the judicial system doesn't work.
NURENBERG: Ron Branson founded "Jail 4 Judges" and thinks judges should be accountable for what they do on the bench.
BRANSON: If I violate the law I have to give an account. If you violate the law you have to give an account. Why should judges be above the law? And that's what judicial immunity is.
NURENBERG: Its not the only judicial ballot initiative this year.
JACOBSON: Colorado has term limits on judges
NURENBERG: The 10 year limit would immediately force five of the seven current Colorado Supreme Court justices to step down.
KOURLIS: Whether they're extraordinary judges or not such good judges they would be swept out.
NURENBERG: Advocates of judicial restraints say they want to make the judiciary more accountable. Voters get to decide Tuesday. Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.
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COOK: Recently, we asked you to send in what you think are the most important issues today...and we received many responses. Thank you! Among the top topics for teens that responded: The high cost of college, the lack of job prospects and training and the role of morality in government policies. We want to highlight one class that sent in response: Mr. Radford's sixth grade at Natividad Elementary in Salinas, California. Mr. Radford polled his students on the issues most important to them. At the top of their list: Drug use, gangs and shootings, terrorism, a military draft, and yes, too much schoolwork. Also important for the class, the Iraq war, cost of gas/living expenses and global warming. Of course, this isn't a scientific poll, but gives you a snapshot of what some young people are concerned about this election year.
COOK: They used to go door-to door looking for votes. This election some politicians added social networking sites as the newest way state their case. Sites like Myspace and Facebook let candidates target a generation that isn't always tuned in to politics Jennifer Westhoven explains how "my-facing" could change the way you hear from politicians in the future.
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JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN REPORTER: Eighteen to twenty-nine-year-olds are spending more and more time socializing online.
PERSON ON THE STREET: I go on Facebook 2-3 times a day.
WESTHOVEN: So politicians are joining them in the virtual networking world -- posting profiles to explain their stands on the issues.
PERSON ON THE STREET: You can actually find out all about a candidate basically with just one single click. It's incredibly convenient you don't have to research through papers or magazines
WESTHOVEN: Candidates from different parties in all corners of the country are gaining political supporters the way social networkers find friends. It's completely free... and the potential voting audience is immense. Myspace.com sees up to fifty-six million unique visitors a month... and about 80% are voting age. Another top site, Facebook.com has 10 million members -- most from the highly-coveted college set. Users show support by posting campaign banners and links to candidates profiles for all their friends to see. Some industry insiders think this type of friend-to-friend chain-reaction is a new kind of "word of mouth campaigning."
PERSON ON THE STREET: It really is the 21st century version of the yard sign for the community that's on Myspace. And given the size of the community, that can be a pretty powerful yard sign if you do it right.
WESTHOVEN: Big signs, maybe, but not all users are reading them.
PERSON ON THE STREET: I've seen campaign issues, but I haven't really paid too much attention to it.
PERSON ON THE STREET: I've never noticed any politicians, I know that there are a lot of celebrities.
WESTHOVEN: So the big unknown is whether online support will mean real support in the election booth. Rock the Vote is taking careful note this go'round as it prepares for the presidential election to come.
HANS RIEMER, ROCK THE VOTE: Social networks are here to stay, for us this is about testing new approaches so that when the storm comes in 2008 we know what to do.
WESTHOVEN: Jennifer Westhoven, CNN, New York.
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COOK: If you're old enough to do it...don't forget to vote! And thanks for joining us for this special Election Day edition. For CNN Student News, I'm Shanon Cook
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