Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Most Important Ballot Initiatives of 2018

By No Labels
November 1, 2018 | Blog

When voters in all 50 states make their way to the polls they will be voting on more than just who will be their senator, governor, or representative. They will vote on important ballot measures on issues such as healthcare, abortion rights and marijuana legalization. Here are five facts on 2018’s most important ballot measures:

A ballot measure is when voters get to decide on whether something becomes law or, in some cases, an amendment to the state constitution

Ballot measures are one of the most prominent and consequential forms of direct democracy in the United States, where voters are able to vote directly on issues, as opposed to electing representatives to vote on issues for them. There are several ways that measures can make their way onto the ballot.  First is “initiative and referendum,” which refers to when initiatives get enough signatures on a petition to earn placement on the ballot.  However, only about half of U.S. states allow this path for ballot measures and the threshold for making onto the ballot varies from state to state.  Second, ballot measures can be brought about by legislative referrals, where the state legislature votes to put a certain issue before the people, as opposed to deciding on it themselves.

Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon are set to vote on ballot measures that would restrict abortion rights

The ballot measures in both Alabama and West Virginia aim to amend their state constitutions to say that abortion rights are not protected.  Alabama’s measure seeks to give “personhood” rights to fetuses by making it state policy to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.” In West Virginia, the measure is designed to prohibit Medicaid from paying for abortions. Finally, the measure in Oregon is designed to block state and municipal employee health plans, as well as Medicaid funds, from paying for abortion.  It is unclear how these measures will be decided in November, although Oregon is voters are among the most pro-choice in the nation and Alabama and West Virginia are among the most pro-life.

Floridians will vote on restoring the right to vote for convicted felons

This measure is just one example of a successful “initiative and referendum” strategy, in which a coalition of groups gather more than 1 million signatures to ensure that the measure makes it on the ballot. The Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative has the potential to restore the right to vote for 1.4 million Floridians who have felonies on their record. If the measure passes, it would mark the largest expansion of voting rights since the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18. Because the measure would amend the state’s constitution, it will need to pass with 60% of the vote, but a recent poll by the University of North Florida showed 71% support for the amendment.

Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah will vote on expanding Medicaid, government healthcare for those with limited income and resources

Under Obamacare, Congress raised the threshold for Medicaid in an effort to eliminate the coverage gap — a term used to describe people who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but did not earn enough to buy healthcare plans for themselves and their families. However, because Medicaid is jointly funded by the states and the federal government, the landmark Supreme Court Case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius effectively made the expansion optional and left the final decision up to the states.  Thus far 33 states and the District of Columbia have voted to expand Medicaid.

Voters in Michigan, North Dakota, Missouri, and Utah will vote on varying degrees of marijuana legalization

On November 6th residents of Michigan will vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana. If the measure passes, Michigan will become the 10th state, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize recreational pot.  At the same time, North Dakotans will vote on an expansive measure to legalize marijuana — the plan does not have limits on the amount one can possess or grow.  While marijuana advocates are optimistic in Michigan, it will be a surprise if conservative North Dakota adopts what would be some of the most relaxed marijuana laws in the country. In addition, voters in Missouri and Utah will vote on legalizing medical marijuana. The initiative in Missouri is hindered by the fact that three different versions of the measure will be on the ballot, which could confuse voters. In Utah, medical marijuana does not have the support of one of the state’s largest constituencies, Mormons, which has the potential to sink the measure.

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