2016 Political Measure Wrap-up

Thanks for reading my first two posts. We are at a very important moment in time when the people are empowered by living in the information age - knowledge is power.

This is my last installment of this series of national topics on tomorrow’s ballots - I will wrap up some more big topics and highlight what the politicians call housekeeping issues, which run the gamut from voter rights to education. Remember, these topics will not be on every state’s ballot – they more than likely, though, were either on your state’s ballot in the past or will be in the future.

As we prepare to take to the polls tomorrow, let’s start with the topic of voting. We certainly have come a long way from our first election, with its limits on who can vote and what can be voted on. There are three states that have voting on their ballots tomorrow.

South Dakota is being innovative by having voters decide if they want to switch to a single nonpartisan primary in which all candidates are listed on one ballot. In this system, the top two vote-getters would move on to the general election. This aligns with a direct democratic system whereby the people are voting more directly for candidates as opposed to leaving it in the hands of delegates. They also will have voters decide whether to give redistricting duties to an independent commission.

Missouri also has voting on the ballot, where alarmingly voters will decide whether to amend their constitution to apply a strict photo ID law at the polls.

In Maine, voters are considering whether to use a ranked-choice voting system rather than a winner-take-all one. This is the first time alternative voting has appeared on a state ballot.

The topic that might be on the most state’s ballots is legislature, experiencing an unusual amount of attention by showing up on five different state ballots.

Californians are deciding if bills should be made public at least 72 hours before they are heard, while Alabama voters will be deciding on updates on its impeachment laws. Meanwhile, in Idaho voters could give the legislature the right to review all administrative actions by executive branch. In North Dakota voters will decide whether to explicitly require legislatures to live in the districts they represent.

Just as important as the topic of voting is campaign finance, which is on four different ballots - most notably in California and Washington. Voters in both states will decide whether to tell their congressional delegations if Citizens United (a Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate political donation) should be undone.

Washington seem to be the most adept at offering the alternative to Citizen United as voters in that state will be deciding whether to establish their own public funding system for campaigns. This has already been implemented with a program in Seattle.  

South Dakota, which has the second highest amount of measures, will be asking voters to decide whether or not to increase contribution disclosure requirements, decrease limits on contributions, and whether to initiate a public finance system of their own.

One of the most economically large topics on ballots tomorrow will be Transportation and Infrastructure. In New Jersey voters, will decide if a portion of the diesel fuel tax should go to transportation and infrastructure projects. In Illinois, voters will decide if all gas revenues should be dedicated to transportation, preventing them being used for general-fund purposes. Meanwhile, voters in Louisiana will choose if a revenue fund will be established to help pay for transportation projects.

Last but certainly not least, Maine will have voters decide whether or not to approve $100 million for a variety of transportation projects that include major freight movement as well as the creation of bike and pedestrian paths.

Oklahoma, Washington, Louisiana and Oregon will have various tax related issues on their ballots. State sales tax increase for Oklahoma. Washingtonians will be voting on a Carbon emissions tax, while Louisiana and Oregon voters will be deciding whether to increase corporate taxes.

Housekeeping topics include – hunting, fishing, farming, ranching, energy, cigarette taxes, gambling, healthcare, and “one-offs”.  As far as hunting, fishing, farming, and ranching goes the most notable issues voters will be voting on are in Indiana and Kansas where they are letting voters decide whether to enshrine these activities as rights.

In Massachusetts, citizens will decide whether or not to prohibit the sale of eggs, veal and pork from animals confined in ways that severely limit their ability to move.

Florida and Nevada will vote on Ballot Measures addressing solar energy.

California, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota all plan to add significant increases to their cigarette taxes.

One-offs include Oklahomans deciding if grocery stores can sell alcohol seven days a week. Also, South Dakotans will be deciding on two measures capping interest rates for payday lenders. Californians will be deciding whether or not adult film actors should use condoms.

Healthcare care, which is now trending and being addressed at the state level, is one of the most important housekeeping issues. Colorado has measures voters will be deciding, the first being whether or not to establish a state funded, single-payer health care system, as well as deciding on whether to become the sixth state to allow medical aid in dying.

In California, voters will be deciding by citizen initiatives whether to limit the amount paid by the state’s healthcare budget for prescriptions drugs to the discounted price paid by the veterans’ administration.

 

Arguably the three biggest topics on the ballots besides marijuana and criminal justice are labor pensions, minimum wage, education, and guns.

As far as Labor and Pensions, voters in Alabama and Virginia will decide on adding the provisions of their right-to-work laws to their constitutions joining 10 states that have already done so.

Regarding minimum wage, Arizona, Maine, and Washington all have measures to raise it, which will be crucial to our economy. However, South Dakota has a measure to roll back the wage for teens.  In 2014 this topic was undoubtedly one of major concerns for many Americans, with five states doing so by a vote of the people.

Education is on the most state’s ballots at 10 but is usually represented in abundance around voting time. California, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah all are seeking an increase in funding.

Oregonians will be voting on outdoor education as well as retention rate, while voters will also be deciding on courses of action regarding chronically failing schools. In Massachusetts, voters will be deciding on issues pertaining to charter schools, and Alaska on student loans.

The last topic to address is guns, with four states voting on measures surrounding them. California has a citizen initiative that will address how people lose their eligibility to have a firearm, as well as one that would require a permit verifying the buyer is not barred from owning a firearm before buying ammunition. Another measure would require owners to report lost or stolen weapons.

Other gun related measures include Washingtonians deciding whether to allow the temporary removal of guns from the possession of an at-risk person. Also, Maine and Nevada are focusing on measures regarding background checks.

Along with electing the Head of State we will be voting on congress representatives and senator. However, it is important to note that over half of the measures are citizen initiatives, illustrating that people are now more informed than ever.  We are truly living in arguably the big bang of our democracy by limiting legislature and developing a more direct democracy.

Is that not what true democracy is, after all? America is the great experiment that countries all over the world look to emulate – a government that operates by putting the power not in monarchs, dictators, or power thirsty politicians but the actual people of the state and nation.

We are not perfect, but every day we are writing history. We have made mistakes and surely will make some in the future. However, with true bipartisan governance in the House and Senate we can achieve unity in our democracy.  Implementing an international humanitarian ethics commission to help restore public relations worldwide and limiting foreign private interest groups who might be fueled by making profits at the expense of powerless American citizens could help turn this country around. More focus on direct democracy and less on the legislature may ensure a feeling of one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.