On Election Day, all eyes will be on the race for the White House, but in several states that won’t be the only contest worth watching. Across the country, voters will also face decisions about local referendums and amendments to their state constitutions on a variety of policy issues -- from gay marriage and marijuana legalization to reproductive rights.
Indeed, according to the left-leaning Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, voters will decide the fate of more than 130 ballot measures on Nov. 6. Here are some of the more closely watched ones:
1. Legalizing gay marriage (Maryland & Washington state): Voters in Maryland and Washington will be asked to either uphold or dismiss their state’s marriage-equality laws. In March, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Opponents of the new law fired back in June, gaining enough signatures to put the issue before voters this November. Similarly, same-sex marriages were legalized in Washington last February when Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) signed the “Marriage Equality” bill. However, the law could be overturned this fall when it faces a referendum vote in the November election. If either of these measures is passed, it would be the first time in U.S. history that a ballot measure in support of same-sex marriage would win a statewide popular vote.
2. Banning gay marriage (Minnesota): Voters will decide whether or not to pass a proposed state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as being between only one man and one woman. Currently, same-sex marriages are not recognized in the state.
3. Legalizing marijuana (Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, Washington): Voters in both Arkansas and Massachusetts will be asked to vote on the legalization of marijuana -- for medical use -- in their states. In these measures, both states outline what type of medical conditions qualifies an individual to use marijuana without criminal penalties. Voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington will decide whether or not recreational usage of marijuana should legal for all people 21 and older, and taxed/regulated in the same way as alcohol currently is.
4. Adopting Maryland's "Dream Act”: In 2011, the Maryland General Assembly passed Senate Bill 167, which is commonly referred to as the “Maryland Dream Act.” The law allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at Maryland community colleges if they graduate high school in the state and their parents file taxes in Maryland. After completing two years at a community college, the students can then transfer to a state university, while still paying the in-state tuition rate. This current ballot measure will decide if this law stays or goes.
5. Enacting campaign finance reform (California): Proposition 32 aims to make key changes to campaign finance laws in California. If passed, neither unions nor corporations would be allowed to donate directly to state and local political candidates; employee payroll deductions could not be used for “political purposes”; and the law would prohibit government contractors from donating to candidates who’ve helped them secure a contract. Opponents of this reform are fearful that, if the ballot proposition passes, the voices of Super PACs and special interest groups will be louder than ever before.
6. Outlawing affirmative action (Oklahoma): State Question #759 will appear on ballots across Oklahoma in November, and it asks voters whether or not affirmative action programs in the state should be banned. The three areas targeted by the amendment are employment, education, and contracting. If passed, the ban on affirmative action programs would extend to the state, its agencies, counties, cities, towns, school districts, and other subdivisions.
7. Banning federal funds for abortions (Florida): Voters in Florida will decide on a constitutional amendment that would ban the use public funds for abortions, unless it's performed in order to save the mother’s life. The amendment also notes, in regards to abortion, that the state’s constitution -- when it comes to abortion -- cannot be interpreted to be broader in scope than the United States Constitution. The amendment must receive 60% voter approval to be adopted.
8. Abolishing the death penalty (California): Californians will have the chance to abolish the death penalty as the maximum punishment for murder. If passed, Proposition 34 would make the maximum criminal punishment in the state life in prison with no possibility for parole. According to an official report put out by the state’s Legislative Analyst, if the amendment passes it would save the state $130 million annually.
9. Requiring voter ID (Minnesota): The state will decide if voters in future elections will be required to show a government-issued photo ID before voting. The measure also requires that the state make photo IDs available to those without a government-issued ID, at no charge.
10. Religious funding (Florida): If passed, Amendment 8 would allow public funds in Florida to be used by religious organizations that provide public services. The amendment would repeal what is currently known in Florida as the “Blaine Amendment,” which prohibits state funding of religious organizations and religious schools. The amendment must receive 60% voter approval to be adopted.