The Voters Speak: State Ballot Initiatives

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The Voters Speak: State Ballot Initiatives

Although laws differ across the country, voters in many states can have a direct say in governing through initiatives and referendums. According to the Initiative and Referendum Institute, voters in 34 states had their say on 157 ballot propositions. 

Here are some of the issues that voters decided in this way on Tuesday:



  • Alabama puts right-to-work in the state constitution. Virginia voters rejected the idea of putting it in their state’s constitution. 
  • Higher minimum wage: Arizona; Colorado; Washington enacted increases to their minimum wage requirements on businesses.



  • Go ahead, buy your full-strength beer at the supermarket: Oklahoma will let people buy full-strength beer at grocery stores and convenience stores on Sundays.
  • Wanna bet? New Jersey rejects letting casinos expand beyond Atlantic City. Massachusetts rejects putting slots at a race track. Rhode Island will now allow a casino in the town of Tiverton.
  • Cigarette taxes, yes and no: Voters in California, Colorado, Missouri, and North Dakota considered tobacco or cigarette tax increases. Only in California did a tax increase pass.



  • Politician pay raises: The pay of legislators in Minnesota will no longer be decided by legislators themselves. Instead, it will go to an independent committee.
  • Statewide ranked-choice voting: Maine enacts a new method of casting and counting ballots, which is used in some cities nationwide.
  • Voter ID required: Missouri will require people show a photo ID when voting.
  • Primaries open to all: Colorado allows people to vote in a party’s primary election without declaring a party affiliation.
  • Limits on campaign spending: Missouri and South Dakota will limit how much money people can contribute to state races; Washington approves a system of taxpayer funding on campaigns.
  • Keep partisan primaries: South Dakota rejected a measure to ban party affiliations in primary elections and replace it with a system under which the top two vote-getters in the primary appear on the general election ballot.



  • No to more charter schools: Massachusetts voters rejected a measure to expand charter schools.
  • No to state control of schools: Georgia voters said ”no” to a measure that would have allowed the state to take over under-performing public schools.



  • No to single-payer in one state: Colorado voters rejected a 10 percent payroll tax to fund a state-run health care system.
  • Doctor-assisted, on my own terms death: Colorado will let people who have a diagnosis of six months to live get a prescription for fatal doses of medication.



  • Capital punishment: Voters in Oklahoma say that capital punishment is not “cruel and unusual punishment,” and instructed the state to come up with a new means of execution of the existing ones are ruled impermissible by courts.
  • Voters in California rejected a ballot measure that would have repealed the death penalty, while narrowly approving a measure that would speed up the death penalty appeals process.  And Nebraskans overturned a state law that repealed the death penalty.


  • No to carbon taxes: Washington voters rejected a carbon tax that would have imposed a $100 per-ton carbon tax.


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