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States Offer Up Many Consequential Ballot Measures

Fortunately, polls are predicting that Obama will defeat Romney,  and Democrats will take the Senate by a margin of 52 to 47. Predictions are unfortunately less favorable for Democrats when it comes to the House of Representatives where Republicans are expected to maintain at least 233 seats to Democrats 185 with an additional 17 seats considered toss-ups. While the most important election is obviously the Presidential election and the key Senate races, there are many other election results that liberals will be keenly interested in tracking. Many will be hoping to see the sea of red that swept through state level legislatures and governorships reversed. In addition, there are nearly 180 ballot initiatives, and a great many of them are very consequential. Seeking out the results of these measures will be well worth the time of concerned liberals.

Several states, including Alabama (Amendment 6), Florida (Amendment 1), Montana and Wyoming (Amendment A), have stamped their feet and thrown a tantrum over the Affordable Care Act. They have chosen to propose initiatives that would allow their citizens to either allow their state to opt out of Obamacare or declare the individual mandate unlawful. They aren’t the first red states to attempt defiance of federal law through ballot initiatives. However, this is just but one of the tactics states have been using to try to challenge health care reform as legislatures have been busy trying to pass laws that allow them to opt out of the federal reforms.

The issue of same sex marriage has made it onto the ballot in several states. In Maine, they have been going back and forth on the matter for some time. Their legislature approved same-sex marriage in 2009 only to have voters immediately vote to ban it that same year. Now, voters are again being asked to consider this issue (Question 1) by potentially overturning the ban they previously instated. Maryland’s ballot initiative is supportive of same-sex marriage. For quite some time, polls showed the citizens of Maryland were more supportive of the initiative (Question 6) than not, but recent polling has shown this support waning. At this point, the results could go either way. This is exactly the same situation in Minnesota where polls also show their ballot initiative (Amendment 1) banning same-sex marriage is polling in a dead heat. The state where same sex marriage looks most promising is Washington, where polling shows their pro-equality initiative (Referendum 74) polling favorably.

Marijuana legalization is back on the ballot, but it isn’t just medical marijuana this time for three states that have already legalized medical marijuana. Two of the states, Colorado (Amendment 64) and Oregon (Measure 80), would legalize marijuana for recreational use with no strings attached. Going into Tuesday’s election, the polls suggest that Colorado may legalize marijuana, but support for doing so has been slipping. Unfortunately, Oregon voters seem to be ready to reject their legalization measure. Washington also has a measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use, but unlike the other two states, the polls are much more favorable. However, Washington’s referendum (Initiative 502) comes with strings attached that have even long-time legalization advocates telling people to vote no on Tuesday. The concern is that the measure includes provisions which would penalize medical marijuana users, because law enforcement would be issuing DUIs to people with blood levels of THC that are routinely seen in regular marijuana users. Two other states, Arkansas ( Issue 5) and Massachusetts (Question 3), are voting on whether to legalize medical marijuana as well. Perhaps not surprisingly, the measures are polling poorly in Arkansas and favorably in Massachusetts.

Michigan will be important on election night for two of its key initiatives. Its draconian emergency manager laws are going to get a public review through their ballot initiative (Proposal 1) and it looks like voters are finally going to put an end to these monstrosities. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like voters are going to be similarly enlightened about union rights, because polls are showing that an initiative (Proposal 2) that would put collective bargaining rights into the Michigan state constitution has more opposition than support.

In California, four particular ballot measures are particularly important. In the criminal justice arena, voters are being asked to decide whether to repeal the death penalty (Proposition 34) and revise the three-strikes law (Proposition 36). Despite being outspent by millions of dollars, supporters of the death penalty are apparently going to get to keep it. The three-strikes law would change so that it would be applied only to serious, violent offenses instead of sweeping up all of the non-violent offenders it often snags now. This is a second attempt to revise the law after voters failed to do so in 2004, and this time it is looking like voters just might do it. A flood of money from corporate food producers has poured into preventing California’s Proposition 37 to label genetically modified food and it appears that they have managed to buy their desired outcome, as it seems ready to fail.

California’s fourth ballot measure worth following is the deceptively written Proposition 32 that appears to “get the money out of politics” but actually just aims to target unions by ending their access to dues gathering methods like payroll deductions. This proposition purports to reign in corporate campaign spending as well, but it actually leaves major loopholes for corporations that allow them to spend freely anyway. But other state ballot initiatives really are trying to get the money out of politics. After Montana lost their battle to fight Citizen’s United this year when they took their anti-corruption, anti-corporate political donations law to the Supreme Court, they placed their Initiative I-166 onto the ballot that would ban corporate personhood at the state level. Colorado’s Amendment 65 is similar in nature, with provisions to limit corporate contributions to political campaigns.

Of course, there are many other vital ballot measures, such as Florida’s Amendment 8 which is ostensibly  a religious freedom law, but is actually just a power grab by conservatives to snatch public dollars for private, religious schools, or Minnesota’s Amendment 2, where instead of having legislators suppress voters by forcing them to produce photo IDs, polls show that the citizens of Minnesota are poised to do it to their fellow citizens.

The media is often hyper-focused on the Presidency and Senate and House races come election night. It can be difficult to locate information about the results of ballot initiative votes. However, given the gravity of many of these issues, it would be well worth it to scour the internet for the outcomes of the ballot measures above.

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