Slide Show: The Most Important Referendums on This Month's Ballots—From Mississippi to Ohio and Beyond | The Nation

Slide Show: The Most Important Referendums on This Month's Ballots—From Mississippi to Ohio and Beyond

  • The Most Important Referendums on This Month’s Ballots (1 of 13)

    A year from now, the eyes of the entire world will be on American voting booths, as Barack Obama’s presidency will be challenged by an as-yet-unknown Republican. This year's Election Day, not nearly as many people will be paying attention, but as The Nation’s George Zornick reports in this slide show, several key issues are still up for referendum—on everything from anti-worker laws to voting rights to environmental stewardship. Here are some of the most interesting things voters will be deciding on Tuesday.


    Credit: AP Images and Reuters Pictures

  • Reproductive health restrictions

    Mississippi: Reproductive health restrictions (2 of 13)

    Mississippians will vote on a “personhood amendment,” which would define life as beginning at conception. If passed, the measure would make it impossible to get an abortion in the state, and could even outlaw certain types of birth control. Personhood USA, a Colorado Christian group, is mounting that campaign—but the Mississippi State Medical Association and Doctors Against MS 26 are pushing back, saying the law would impinge on their ability to practice medicine.


    Update: Mississippi 26 failed by a surprising margin.


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  • Restricting voter access

    Mississippi: Restricting voter access (3 of 13)

    Mississippi will also decide next week whether to require photo identification at the polls, when voters take up the Voter ID Initiative. As Ari Berman detailed in Rolling Stone, such laws can seriously restrict the ability of low-income and minority voters from casting a ballot. The Mississippi legislature hasn’t been able to pass a bill requiring photo identification, so proponents of the idea are making an end-run via this referendum.


    Update: Mississippi’s voter ID law was approved by voters.


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  • Reign in eminent domain

    Mississippi: Rein in eminent domain (4 of 13)

    In 2005, when the US Supreme Court decided Kelo v City of New London, it said the state of Connecticut was free to seize private property and turn it over to a developer because it was in the general economic interest—a practice known as eminent domain. Mississippians will vote on a referendum that would restrict that state from exercising eminent domain by imposing a ten-year waiting period on any such action.


    Update: Mississippi voters overwhelmingly passed the referendum to restrict eminent domain.


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  • Collective bargaining rights for public employees

    Ohio: Collective bargaining rights for public employees (5 of 13)

    The biggest referendum up for a vote this month is Ohio’s Issue 2, which if voted down would kill Senate Bill 5—the anti-worker law passed earlier this year that prohibits public employees from collective bargaining. There”s a huge amount of money pouring into the vote, from unions and liberal groups along with right-wing organizations—the group Citizen’s United is launching a $100,000 ad campaign in the final week. It’s also a possible bellwether for next year’s presidential election—Mitt Romney supports Issue 2, while Barack Obama opposes it.


    Update: Issue 2 failed, meaning Governor John Kasich’s union-busting law was rejected.


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  • Block federal health care mandate

    Ohio: Block federal health care mandate (6 of 13)

    Ohioans will also vote on Tea Party–backed Issue 3, which would block any federal healthcare mandate in the state. It’s intended to stop Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms from being implemented in the state, though there could be legal challenges even if it passes. The Ohio Liberty Council, a conglomerate of statewide Tea Party groups, is pushing hard for the referendum.


    Update: Ohioans approved Issue 3, which prevents health care reform from being implemented in Ohio. 


    Credit: Reuters Pictures

  • Cars Arkansas

    Arkansas: Gas tax increase (7 of 13)

    In Arkansas, voters will decide if a four-cent tax on gasoline should be used to fund highway repairs in the state, which are in poor condition. This might seem uncontroversial, but gas taxes and infrastructure are key issues at the national level. Ronald Reagan increased the gas tax to fund infrastructure investment, as did every president after him—until George W. Bush, who severed the gas tax from infrastructure spending. Now, Obama has proposed massive infrastructure spending in both his budget and jobs bill in order to fix American roads that need a $930 billion to fix. He has hesitated to directly propose a gas tax increase, leaving it unclear how exactly the repairs will be funded, and Republicans may want to get rid of it altogether. If a deep-red state like Arkansas moves to fund highway repairs with the gas tax, it could become a useful talking point in Washington.


    Update: Arkansans overwhelmingly approved the use of gas tax money to fund highway repairs.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Re-regulate energy

    Colorado: Re-regulate energy (8 of 13)

    Colorado held voting the first week of November, and voters in Boulder did something pretty amazing—they voted to buy the city’s electric contract back from energy giant Xcel, because of concerns about the company’s record on greenhouse gas emissions. This re-regulation of energy could spark a national trend, and voters showed they are willing to pay more taxes if it meant a cleaner environment.


    Credit: Reuters Pictures 

  • Paid sick leave

    Colorado: Paid sick leave (9 of 13)

    Voters in Denver overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would require small businesses in the city to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours worked. The pro-worker measure was also aimed at reducing the spread of illness in restaurants, daycare centers, and other workplaces, but a campaign by the business community apparently convinced voters that it would harm employment in the city.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Marijuana initiatives

    Colorado and California: Marijuana initiatives (10 of 13)

    Marijuana issues were on the ballot across Colorado—some municipalities, like Fort Collins and Brush, voted to prohibit any medical marijuana facilities in their towns.  Others, like Palisade, rejected similar a similar ban, which saved the town’s only marijuana dispensary. The drug is a hot issue in Colorado—dispensaries are already legal, and a more general legalization may be on the ballot in 2012.


    Further west, Vallejo, California was one of the first—and largest—municipalities to sink after the 2008 financial crash. The city declared bankruptcy in May 2008, and finally emerged this month. The city still faces large deficits, and on Tuesday, voters will decide if they want to help close that gap by taxing medical marijuana sold in the city. It’s one of many municipalities across the country that may decide to ease budget pain by taxing the drug.


    Update: The residents of Vallejo easily approved the marijuana tax.


    Credit: Reuters Pictures

  • Restore same-day voter registration

    Maine: Restore same-day voter registration (11 of 13)

    In Maine, there’s a major drive to undo voting restrictions put in place by Republican Governor Paul LePage (pictured above), who eliminated same-day voter registration when he came into office. If Referendum 1 is passed, LePage’s rule will be nullified and voters will be able to show up at the polls, register and vote in 2012—as they have for forty years in that state.


    Update: Referendum 1 in Maine passed, restoring same-day voting.


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  • Extend governor’s power to pardon

    Texas: Extend governor’s power to pardon (12 of 13)

    In Texas, the governor can currently pardon people convicted of crimes. But he or she cannot pardon people convicted of crimes who have gone through deferred adjudication, which is basically like parole. Proposition 9, on the ballot Tuesday, would give the governor that power—something that proponents say will make it easier for felons to find homes, work or schooling after they complete deferred adjudication. It’s not often that Texas makes its criminal justice system less punitive, but Proposition 9 would do just that.


    Update: Proposition 9 passed in Texas, giving the governor expanded pardon powers.


    Credit: AP Images

  • Privatize liquor distribution

    Washington: Privatize liquor distribution (13 of 13)

    Washington State currently runs the liquor business there—it operates a massive distribution center in Seattle, and liquor stores across the state are run by the government. Grocery giant Costco is pushing for the approval of Initiative 1183, which would require the state to sell off the distribution center and its stores, while also allowing grocery stores to sell liquor. Some legislators are eager to do that, because the windfall would patch steep budget holes. But the state budget office says that the initiative would cost the state money in the long term, once the selloff cash has been spent and the state no longer has direct revenue from liquor distribution.


    Update: Initiative 1183 passed, thus privatizing Washington’s liquor sales and distribution.


    For more on updates from the state referendums, check out Zornick’s blog.  


    Research for this slide show provided by Cal Colgan.


    Credit: AP Images

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