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The New York Times

Governor Vetoes California Ballot Question on U.S. Policy in Iraq

Regan Morris

LOS ANGELES - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have allowed Californians to vote on whether "the president should end the United States occupation of Iraq."

The governor explained his decision by saying that Iraq policy was "not a state issue" and that the symbolic vote would carry no weight.0913 07

If Californians want to send Washington a message about Iraq, Mr. Schwarzenegger said, they can do so at the polls without an Iraq advisory question. California, he said, moved its presidential primary up to Feb. 5 from June to allow the state a greater say in selecting presidential candidates.

"All Californians have the right and the means to speak their mind on matters of such national importance," Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said in his veto message. "There is no louder message Californians can send to Washington on the Iraq war than who should lead our nation."

The bill would have added an advisory question to the February ballot asking voters if they favored an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Sixty-five percent of Californians support either withdrawing all (39 percent) or some (26 percent) of the American troops in Iraq, according to the Field Poll, which questioned 1,029 registered voters in California from Aug. 3 to Aug. 12. Participants were asked what the United States should do now about the number of its troops in Iraq.

The margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

State Democrats strongly criticized the veto. The president pro tem of the Senate, Don Perata, the Democrat who introduced the Iraq bill, said it was odd for Mr. Schwarzenegger to dismiss Iraq as a federal issue when he - and the state - had taken such a strong stance on global issues like the environment.

The chairman of California's Democratic Party, Art Torres, said the governor's veto "muzzled" voters.

"The self-proclaimed 'people's governor' owed nothing less to the people of California and our troops overseas than to let the voice of the voters be heard on this disastrous war in Iraq," Mr. Torres said. "Instead, even as General Petraeus presents statistics this week that have raised more questions than answers about progress in Iraq, Schwarzenegger has ignored that message and effectively muzzled California voters on this critical issue."

The veto came on the same day that Mr. Schwarzenegger announced the deaths of four marines from Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

Since 2003, more than 400 service members from California have died in Iraq, more than from any other state.

© 2007 The New York Times Company

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