Many voters forget that during elections, people aren’t the only things on the ballot. Ballot measures are also present, helping the United States behave more like a direct democracy than a representative democracy on a few specific issues.
To get a proposal or amendment to the state constitution on the ballot, usually a signature requirement is the main hurdle to pass. The issue is then submitted to the state government, and is placed on the ballot to be voted on in the next election.
Here are a few key ballot measures that have passed in the 2018 midterms.
Anti-Discrimination: Massachusetts is now the first state to have upheld a transgender anti-discriminatory bill through a statewide vote. Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot asked whether or not to uphold Senate Bill 2407, a piece of legislation deeming the discrimination of any transgender individual in any public setting illegal. A resounding 68% of voters said yes, with 32% saying no, so the bill still stands.
Gun Control: The state of Washington now has the strictest gun laws in the country after the passage of Initiative 1639.
This measure increases the age limit from 18 to 21 when purchasing a pistol or semi-automatic assault rifle, imposes a ten-day waiting period when purchasing said firearms and includes background checks. It also prevents anyone from out of the state from purchasing a firearm in Washington and uses language that holds gun owners more accountable for the safe storage of their weapons. The initiative passed with a 60% approval.
Medicaid Expansion: Three states (Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah) passed measures strengthening their state Medicaid systems, allowing assistance to reach more low-income citizens of these states.
These measures together will grant coverage to 300,000 more Americans, a great departure from the Republican Congress that has been trying to weaken national assistance programs in the past few years. The fact that these three red states voted to expand this government program spells an interesting message for the 2020 election.
Abortion Rights: Alabama and West Virginia will no longer recognize a woman’s right to an abortion at the state level. This decision will not have any impact at the moment since abortion rights are currently enforced at a federal level.
However, if a case were to come to the Supreme Court, as several are working their way to a Supreme Court hearing, Justice Kavanaugh gives conservative judges a deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that guarantees abortion rights nationally. So, these decisions might come into play sooner than one might initially think.
Voting Rights: This election was a huge one for voting rights, with several polarizing results on this hot-button topic. For example, Arkansas passed stricter voter-ID requirements, while Maryland passed same-day voter registration on future elections.
A common theme, however, seemed to be about combatting questionable district lines. Voters in Colorado and Michigan voted to redraw district lines ahead of future elections to restore fairness, combatting gerrymandering and other election rigging controversies.
Michigan also passed straight-ticket voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting, permanently cementing these rights in the state constitution.
Florida restored voting rights to 1.5 million ex-felons with Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to all those who have served their time in prison, except for those convicted of murder or sexual offenses.
So, depending on where you live, voting just got a lot easier, a whole lot harder, or a whole lot more possible.
Marijuana Legalization: In lieu of Canada’s introduction of legal marijuana, Michigan voters have agreed to pass Proposal 1, calling for legal marijuana use recreationally for those over 21 years old. This move is expected to generate much-needed tax revenue to improve infrastructure within the state. Carrying marijuana over the border is still illegal, however, as no agreement has been reached between parties.
Missouri and Utah also legalized medical marijuana for those with qualifying conditions.
Let this be a lesson to all of you: read your ballots carefully! If you don’t, you might miss directly passing legislation on a local issue important to you, like any of these. So, even if you don’t like either candidate, pick one, but also voice your opinion on these ballot measures. They make a big difference.