What do this year’s ballot initiatives tell us about citizens’ attitudes on issues?
Voters weighed in on more than just candidates in Tuesday’s midterm election. 157 ballot initiatives were approved or rejected across 37 states. Results from ballot initiatives provide a temperature check on how voters feel about a specific issue.
Some states allow citizens to submit ballot initiatives directly without first going through the legislature, while others require that they’re determined by the state lawmakers. In either case, citizens cast their vote to approve or reject the proposal. These initiatives present a rare opportunity for advocacy groups to gain insight into what specific segments of the country feels about specific issues. Read on for an overview of where citizens stand on the major issues—it may inform your advocacy strategy for 2019.
States Expand Medicare but Reject Regulations for Hospitals and Clinics
Children’s health care will get a big boost in California, where voters approved the allocation of $1.5 billion in bonds for the construction, expansion, renovation, and equipping of children’s hospitals in California. On the other hand, Californians rejected a proposal that would have required dialysis clinics to issue refunds to patients for revenue above 115 percent of the costs of direct patient care and healthcare improvements.
Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah all passed state initiatives that supported the expansion of Medicaid. In Montana, voters rejected an initiative to extend expanded eligibility for Medicaid coverage and raise taxes on tobacco products.
Patient and nurse advocates lost out in Massachusetts, where voters rejected a proposal to establish patient assignment limits to nurses.
Marijuana Legalization Approved in Three States, Rejected by One
Cannabis advocates rang in some victories, with Utah and Missouri approving the use of medical marijuana, while Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana. North Dakota, in contrast, voted against legalizing marijuana, demonstrating that approval of the drug isn’t everywhere in the country. In Ohio, voters rejected an initiative that would have reduced penalties for crimes related to obtaining, possessing, and using illegal drugs.
States Consider Funding, Religious Symbols for Public Schools
Educational infrastructure in Rhode Island and New Jersey will see improvements. An initiative to borrow $500 million dollars for K-12, county colleges, and technical schools infrastructure passed in New Jersey, and a $250 million dollar bond was approved in Rhode Island for the construction and renovation of public schools. Additionally, Floridians approved to provide higher education benefits to first responders and survivors of military members. Additionally, New Mexicans agreed to issue a bond for $6.1 million to fund the purchases of school buses.
On the other hand, voters in Arizona decided to not increase the share of K-12 student eligible to receive empowerment scholarship and Alabama approved an initiative that will allow certain religious rights and liberties, including the allowance to display the Ten Commandments on state property and property owned or administered by a public school or public body.
Minimum Wage to Increase in Two States
Minimum wage was on the ballot in Arkansas and Missouri. Arkansas approved a gradual increase to $11 dollars an hour by 2021, while Missouri’s minimum wage will reach $12 an hour by 2023 and adjust thereafter based on Consumer Price Index. Additionally, in Missouri, voters rejected a measure that would have prevented people from being required to join a labor union in order to get a job.
Water Quality and Wildlife Among Environmental Concerns
In North Carolina voters approved to amend the Constitution to protect the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, while in Alaska a similar initiative to protect wild salmon and fish wildlife habitat was rejected.
Rhode Island can count on $47.3 million for environmental and recreational funds, due to voters’ approval of the issuance of a bond for these purposes. California rejected a bid to increase funding for water supply, fish wildlife, and groundwater sustainability. Additionally, Montana chose to not limit permits for new rock mining.
Voters Decide on Oil Regulation and Consumer Electricity
Florida, Colorado, and Washington all voted on issues related to oil. Florida approved an initiative that will prohibit drilling for oil and natural gas in state-own waters, while further inland, Colorado failed to pass an amendment that would have required new oil and gas developments to be at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures and water sources. Washington voters agreed to keep expanding funding for emergency oil response and increase taxes on crude oil and petroleum, for a total of $13 million over 10 years.
On the electric front, Arizona opposed a measure that would have pushed electric utility companies to acquire a higher percentage of electricity from renewable sources and Nevada voters struck down an initiative that would have created and opened a competitive retail electric market, which would have reduced consumer costs.
Several States Make Decisions on Infrastructure Funding
California and Maine will see their infrastructure and transportation funds increase. Californians rejected an initiative that would have reduced highway and road repair funds by $5.1 billion. Maine’s bond issuance will be for $106 million to enhance statewide transportation infrastructure such as bridges, highways and harbors. An additional $30 million was also approved to improve water quality and support the planning and construction of wastewater treatment facilities.
Missouri rejected an increase in motor fuel taxes and Colorado failed to approve the issuance of bonds to fund highway projects. Connecticut voters decided to constitutionally protect the state’s transportation funds, so that they can not be used for other purposes.
Is Oregon En Route to be the First “Sanctuary State?”
Oregon pushed state legislation toward the creation of a “sanctuary state” as it rejected an initiative which would have expanded state and local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws.
Where Do The Winning Candidates Stand on the Issues?
Curious about where the winning candidates stand on your issue? We analyzed the stances of winning candidates in 50 of the closest races in the Senate and Congress.
Subscribe for Updates
Get the latest civic engagement trends, best practices, and news, right in your inbox.