State Ballot Measures: Big Questions Among Those Set for Election Day 2014

Posted on 10-21-2014 by
Tags: Real Law

Brought to you by the Real Law Editorial Team

Decisions, decisions. With just days to go before the 2014 mid-term elections, voters across the country are weighing important choices affecting all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate. That’s in addition to considering 38 governorships and 50 state and territorial legislatures that are up for grabs on Election Day.

In the run-up to voting on November 4, much of the nation’s attention has naturally focused on the gubernatorial contests and, perhaps more so, the fate of Congress. Will Republicans take control of the Senate, as many pundits are predicting? That remains to be decided.

In the meantime, ongoing court battles over voter registration laws are intensifying and, for those in the legal profession in particular, attention is shifting to numerous other state and local races, including those for judicial positions.

Looming state ballot questions are also prompting headlines. A total of 136 measures have qualified across the country. “That number is 23 percent lower than it was in 2012, when there were 176 measures on state ballots,” notes State Net® Capitol Journal associate editor Korey Clark in a recent article.

In fact, there has been a downward trend in such measures in recent years. Even so, voters in many states are pondering some key issues that could, depending on the outcome on Election Day, reshape opinion elsewhere.

Leading the way are questions concerning state minimum wages, legalizing marijuana use, gambling proposals and the right to bear arms. But other contentious matters such as abortion, taxes and voting rules will also be decided.

Looking Ahead

Clark’s top story for the October 6, 2014, edition of State Net® Capitol Journal offers a concise preview of the coming ballot questions. Some highlights from the feature article include:

  • Voters in five states—Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota—will be asked whether their respective legislatures should increase the minimum wage. Such measures have fared well at ballot boxes in recent years, with all 10 of those proposed since 2000 having been approved. Clark examines the chances of success for the latest state wage-hike proposals.
  • Ballot measures seeking the legalization of marijuana for recreational use are slated for Alaska and Oregon. “The approval of similar measures in Colorado and Washington was one of the biggest stories of the 2012 election cycle, and proponents of legalization are looking to build on those historic successes,” Clark notes. Marijuana-related questions will also appear on ballots in Florida and Washington.
  • Measures pertaining to gambling will be considered in seven states. The most closely watched referendum is likely to be in Massachusetts, although proposals in California, Kansas, South Carolina and Tennessee are also attracting wide interest.
  • Gun-related questions are on the ballot in two states, but in one of them voters could end up approving two conflicting measures. “Washington’s I-594 would require universal background checks on gun sales, including those at gun shows,” Clark relates. The proposal appears to have broad support. But so, too, does an NRA-backed measure that would prohibit checks for private sales, which also covers those that occur at shows. Clark looks at what might happen if both measures are approved.
  • Voters in Colorado and North Dakota are set to weigh so-called “personhood” measures, while those in Tennessee will consider a sweeping measure on abortion. There will also be tax-related measures on state ballots—14 in all, Clark observes. At the same time, voters in five states will be asked to approve a combined total of $17.35 billion in debt. Measures related to voting rules and hunting will also appear on ballots in several states.
  • In addition to looking at some of the key issues that will be presented to voters across multiple states, Clark examines some other notable measures set for consideration across the country. Included is Alabama’s proposal to prohibit the state’s courts from recognizing foreign laws, such as Sharia, that violate state policy. Finally, he also looks at how spending on campaigns for and against ballot measures has increased, even though the total number of measures on state ballots has declined.

For the complete preview of ballot questions that will no doubt make headlines the morning after Election Day 2014, you can read Clark’s article here.

News and Views from the 50 States

There’s more that fills each weekly edition of State Net® Capitol Journal. It’s all compiled by the expert State Net editorial staff and freely available on the State Net website or in various formats via email.

When you are pressed for time, Capitol Journal delivers an intelligent overview of current events and other important issues that matter to the legal profession.

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