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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

100 years ago in Spokane: Newspaper holds ‘ballot referendum’

Jim Kershner

From our archives, 100 years ago

The Spokesman-Review was doing something unusual by today’s standards. It was holding its own “ballot referendum.”

The subject was universal military training for all male youth. The paper published a “ballot” that stated, among other things, that, “I am an advocate of national legislation which will place the military policy of the country on the basis of a true democracy … brought about only by making all young men, who are physically and mentally fit, liable for military training before reaching the age of 21.”

If you were opposed to it, you were supposed to write the word “not” in the appropriate blank. If you were in favor, you let the ballot stand as printed.

“The Spokesman-Review hopes to secure a thoroughly representative vote from citizens of Spokane on the important matter of training citizens, something after the manner of the Swiss, for military duty,” the paper said.

It hoped to have an impressive return, so that “Spokane may be marked among American cities as a place where people take interest in big national affairs.” A similar “referendum” in Baltimore resulted in 10,000 votes.

Readers could clip out the “ballot” and place it in special ballot boxes all over town.

From the murder beat: A saloon dispute in Taft, Montana, resulted in the death of Edward Gustafson.

John Lewis, who ran the saloon, went out of town for a few days and left Gustafson in charge. When Lewis came back, he paid Gustafson off.

For some reason, Gustafson was not happy with the result. He returned to the saloon later that day with an ax. Lewis said Gustafson advanced toward him threateningly, so Lewis fired one shot into the floor to frighten him. It only enraged Gustafson further. So Lewis then shot twice more, killing him.

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