Here are key ballot measures to watch for in November

Politics

Supporters are seen during a Democrat National Committee grassroots event at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md., on Thursday, August 25, 2022. (Greg Nash/The Hill)

(The Hill) – Voters in several states are set to make decisions in November on some of the biggest policy questions facing the country. 

At stake is everything from the way certain states conduct elections to the future of reproductive rights — an issue that has taken on heightened importance in the months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case. 

Here are five issues that voters will weigh in on through ballot measures when they head to the polls in November.

Abortion rights

After Kansas voters soundly rejected a proposed amendment in August that would have stripped abortion protections from the state constitution, voters in four states are set to decide questions of reproductive rights in November. 

In California and Vermont — two deep-blue states that already have liberal abortion laws — voters are weighing proposed constitutional amendments that would enshrine reproductive rights into their state constitutions. 

The California proposal would add “reproductive freedom” — including the right to have an abortion and to “choose or refuse contraceptives” — to the state constitution, while the Vermont measure would enshrine “personal reproductive autonomy” into state law. 

In Michigan, voters will also decide whether to enshrine the right to have an abortion into the state constitution. The state Supreme Court earlier this month ordered the proposal to be added to the ballot after the state elections board deadlocked over whether to allow the initiative. 

Meanwhile, Kentucky voters will answer a similar question to the one posed in Kansas earlier this year: whether to amend the state constitution to make clear there are no protections for abortion rights in the Commonwealth. 

Likewise, in Montana, voters will decide on a ballot measure providing personhood protections to infants born alive after attempted abortions.

Marijuana policy

At least five states will give voters a say in November on whether to legalize recreational marijuana for residents 21 or older.

Among those states are Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. While the details of the ballot questions differ in each state, the measures could mark a sweeping expansion of marijuana in deep-red territory. 

At the same time, Maryland state lawmakers voted to throw the issue of marijuana legalization to voters. 

Advocates had hoped to put a similar question on the ballot in Oklahoma, but the state Supreme Court rejected that effort last week, saying that voters would have to wait until either the next general election or a special election to decide the matter.

Meanwhile, voters in Colorado, where marijuana is already legal, will decide whether to define certain psychedelic plants and fungi as natural medicine — a move that would pave the way for adults over the age of 21 to grow, possess, use and transport certain psychedelics.

Election reform

Nevada could move a step closer to joining Maine and Alaska on the list of states that use ranked-choice voting if residents approve a ballot measure, known as Question 3, this fall. 

The ballot measure also asks voters whether they want to implement an open primary system, in which all candidates would appear on the same primary ballot. The top-five vote-getters would then advance to the general election. 

For the proposal to go into effect, however, voters will have to approve it both this year and again in 2024.

Another ballot question in Connecticut asks voters whether the state should allow no-excuse early voting. The Nutmeg State is currently one of five states without some form of early voting.

Nebraska voters, meanwhile, will consider whether to add a voter ID requirement to the state constitution, while Arizona voters will be asked about several proposed changes to the voter ID and mail-in ballot policies.

One of those changes would require voters to include their date of birth and voter ID number for mail-in ballots. Another would require people voting in person to show a photo ID, doing away with a policy that allows voters to show two other forms of non-photo identification instead of a photo ID.

Climate change and the environment

Faced with worsening climate change-related disasters such as droughts and wildfires, California voters will decide in November whether to increase taxes on personal income above $2 million a year to fund wildfire prevention programs and infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles, like electric vehicle charging stations.

The tax hike would be relatively small — only about 1.75 percent. But the state legislative analyst’s office estimates that the increase alone would bring in between $3.5 billion and $5 billion annually, and that amount would grow over time.

On the other coast, in New York, voters are being asked to allow the state to borrow $4.2 billion through the issuance of bonds to fund certain environmental projects and policy efforts. 

The largest tranche of that money — $1.5 billion — would go to climate change mitigation efforts, including land conservation and renewable energy projects. In contrast, hundreds of millions of dollars would go toward things like improving stormwater systems and zero-emission school buses. 

Slavery

While the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude when it was ratified in 1865, it carved out an exception that allows the practice as a punishment for a crime.

Even now, nearly 160 years later, 20 state constitutions include language allowing it as a punishment for a crime or repayment of debt. In November, voters in five states — Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont — will decide whether to do away with the practice.

While most of the ballot questions simply seek to declare that slavery and involuntary servitude in any form are not permitted, other measures go further. In Alabama, the proposal would remove “all racist language” from the state constitution.

If approved, the ballot measures could have major impacts on criminal justice reform. Incarcerated individuals could receive higher wages for prison work — or prison labor could be done away with entirely.

It wouldn’t be the first time that voters moved to repeal language allowing slavery and involuntary servitude from their state constitutions. In 2018, similar measures passed in Colorado, Utah and Nebraska.

And 2022 won’t likely be the last time such questions are put on ballots. Voters in several other states, including Florida and Texas, could consider similar measures in future elections.

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