2016 Elections Top Ballot Measures Preview

Voting booths are seen at the Potomac Community Recreation Center during early voting on October 28, 2016 in Potomac, Maryland. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Elections are so partisan these days that just about the only thing you see voting deviate from the assumed party line is on ballot measures. There are numerous ballot measures on ballot across the nation, and these state level policies will impact millions of Americans, and potentially federal policy as well. Here is a look at the most notable ones, and predictions of whether they will pass or fail among the state’s voters.

Drug Policy Reform Measures

Nine states, including California and Florida, will vote on drug policy reform, centered around marijuana or medical marijuana. Florida is voting again on creating a medical marijuana program via a constitutional amendment. In 2014 it got a majority of votes, but not the 60% needed to pass. In a Presidential electorate with more younger voters likely to vote, Florida’s amendment 2 to create a medical marijuana program should pass with over 60%. California is also having a re-vote, in their case it’s to legalize recreational marijuana like its Pacific coast neighbors Oregon and Washington have. In 2010 the push to legalize recreational marijuana in California failed by 7%, but many California voters have changed their view on the issue after seeing the results in other states like Oregon, and like Florida, a younger, more liberal electorate should ensure that the amendment passes–making California, the nation’s most-populated state, also a state with legal recreational marijuana, a true tipping point on the issue.

Arkansas is also re-voting on a marijuana measure, to create a medical marijuana program; it narrowly failed in 2012, and should pass in 2016. Montana looks sure to vote to create a medical marijuana program, given the states strong libertarian values, and only in North Dakota is a possible medical marijuana program up in the air, although it should pass.

Maine looks set to have legal recreational marijuana pass by the largest margin, while Massachusetts shouldn’t be far behind with their own measure. Also out west, Arizona and Nevada are voting on the same issue, in Nevada it looks set to pass, despite local casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spending big against it, while in Arizona the vote could be close but I still see it passing in large part due to increased Democratic turnout in the state.

Minimum Wage Increase Measures

Arizona, Colorado, and Maine are voting to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour in the state by 2020, while Washington is aiming for higher than that by 2020. In all of these states the measures should pass–despite many Republican politicians opposing minimum wage increases–the issue is actually quite popular when put before a popular vote, even among Republicans. South Dakota is voting to lower the youth minimum wage, it will be interesting to see how much support a reverse question gets.

Health Care Policy Measures

California is voting on drug price controls, while Colorado is voting on whether to setup a state level single payer healthcare program and overhaul the state’s current healthcare system. Statewide single payer was discussed in Vermont previously, but was never fully implemented, meaning Colorado would be the first state to have single payer if it passes. The Colorado vote looks doomed for failure, as even many of the state’s Democrats, including Governor John Hickenlooper, are against single payer as proposed, along with the entire Republican party of Colorado, and the insurance industry, along with some unions. Only the Sanders wing of the Democratic party and some other groups are backing single payer in Colorado, and this issue still seems years off from getting passed, or resolved.

Despite massive spending by the “no” side against drug price controls in California, and even some traditionally Democratic groups coming out against it, the ballot language is written in such a way that “yes” should pass. If it does, California would pay the same rate for prescription drugs that the VA does. This is a great example of how money doesn’t always win in politics, if the measure passes. Voters generally want lower prescription drug prices, no matter what arguments are made against it.

Gun Control Measures

Maine and Nevada will vote on whether to expand background checks on gun sales, the measure should pass in Maine, despite a strong gun culture in the rural areas of the state, as they have fewer votes. In Nevada things are more interesting, but Democrats should at least run even to Republicans in the state, and since they will vote uniformly for the measure, while Republicans should be more divided, the gun control measure should pass.

California will vote on a strict gun control measure that would fully ban regular sized ammunition magazines, and tighten the rules on ammunition sales in the state. Given Democrats recommend a vote for it ,while the Republicans are against it, in liberal California it should pass easily.

Education Measures

Georgia is voting on a plan that would allow the state to take over failing schools, it was originally set to pass with conservative support, but the measure has lost momentum in recent weeks, and now looks likely to fail after opposition on the left and right. Massachusetts is voting on whether to expand charter schools in the state. With strong opposition from the state’s unions and progressives it is unlikely to pass, even though it was polling favorably at the start of the year.

Death Penalty Measures

Nebraska and California will vote on death penalty repeals, it should be repealed in California, but reinstated in Nebraska if expected voting patterns hold.

Other Interesting Measures

Maine is voting on whether to make elections the state be decided via instant runoff voting, rather than first past the post. IRV is a ranked choice system, where voters preference candidates on their  ballot from favorite to least favorite, and the candidate that gets the highest number of top preferences will prevail. California is voting on a plastic bag ban, the measure should pass, but it’s no guarantee. Virginia and Alabama are voting on whether to enshrine “right to work laws” that are opposed by labor unions in their state constitutions. The measure should pass in Alabama, but in Virginia it’s a toss-up.

A couple of states in the northeast will vote on whether to expand casino gambling. Florida is voting on a solar energy related measure that will likely pass, but is somewhat misleading as it favors the solar industry, and could create monopolies. Oregon and Maine will vote on tax increases on the states wealthiest residents and businesses.

In closing, no matter what issues you care most about, there are ballot measures to watch on election night, and hopefully this preview has given you an opportunity to learn more about them, and the odds of their passage.

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