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Iraq war question on more than one-third of Mass. ballots

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, cq a statewide coordinator of the ballot effort for the American Friends Service Committee.

Irene Getman cq 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, cq 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.

Governor Mitt Romney's cq office has criticized the initiative as premature and impractical. "To pull out troops precipitously now would lead to a humanitarian disaster in Iraq," the governor's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, cq has said.

A small number of communities in Wisconsin and Illinois will have anti-war measures on the ballot today, Shannon said. In 2005, residents in 52 of Vermont's 246 cities and towns approved a similar resolution at town meetings.

Other ballot questions in Massachusetts today concern whether more food stores should be allowed to sell wine, whether candidates can be nominated by more than one party in a general election, and whether unions can organize home-based day-care providers.

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