November's Most Important Ballot Measures

From health care to immigration, voters will decide a long list of policies.
by | October 3, 2018
Voters walking toward a polling station with ballots in hand.
(AP/Ross D. Franklin)

Last Updated Oct. 18 at 3:30 p.m. ET

On Election Day this year, voters in 38 states will cast a vote on 154 ballot measures. We parsed through them all. Below is a summary of the most important ones we have written about so far. This page will be frequently updated as our ballot coverage continues. (We also have ratings and analysis for every major statewide race here.)

 

HEALTH CARE

 

Obamacare

Several red states will hold the first referendum on Obamacare since Congressional Republicans tried and failed to repeal it. Voters in Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and Utah will decide the fate of Medicaid expansion, a central tenet of Obamacare. The outcomes could set up showdowns between Republican governors and courts if they are unwilling to implement the policy. Read More.

 

Abortion

At a time of uncertainty over the future of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion, voters in three states -- Alabama, Oregon and West Virginia -- could restrict or preemptively criminalize abortion. Advocates on both sides of the issue either fear or hope that President Trump's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court will increase abortion regulations and limit women's access to the procedure. Read More.

 

Hospital Care

Massachusetts could become only the second state in the country to limit the number of patients that hospital nurses can help at one time. California has had nurse-to-patient staffing requirements since 2004. Studies show they led to decreased mortality rates after surgery and an additional half-hour of care for patients overall. The medical community, however, is divided over the ballot measure. Read More.

 

Universal At-Home Care

Maine voters have a tendency to make U.S. history on election days. In 2017, for instance, they became the first to pass Medicaid expansion at the ballot box. In November, they could approve the nation's first program that provides free at-home services for anyone in need of long-term care, largely the elderly and disabled. It would be funded through a 3.8 percent tax increase for wealthy residents. But if passed, it could face pushback from the incoming governor. Read More.

 

IMMIGRATION

November is the first time voters will directly weigh in on immigration policy since Trump's election in 2016. The president has made opposition to immigration central to his agenda. Oregon has the oldest so-called sanctuary state law in the country, which bans the state and local government from helping to enforce federal immigration laws. Until recently, it attracted little controversy. Voters will now decide whether to repeal the decades-old law, which divides the law enforcement community that has to follow it. Read More.

 

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

Massachusetts will hold the nation's first statewide vote on anti-discrimination protections for transgender people. When it comes to LGBTQ rights, the state is hailed as a leader -- it was the first to legalize same-sex marriage. Now, voters there could repeal a 2016 law, signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, that protects transgender people from discrimination in public spaces, including bathrooms. Read More.

 

MARIJUANA

Is the Midwest ready for recreational marijuana? Voters in Michigan and North Dakota could become the first in the region to legalize it. While Michigan's ballot measure would set up a licensing and taxation system, North Dakota's would not. North Dakota's initiative is unique in that it would create a system for automatically expunging some previous marijuana convictions -- something California recently pioneered. Read More.

 

SLAVERY

Did you know that slavery is still a legal form of punishment under the U.S. Constitution and several states' constitutions? Voters in one state, Colorado, have a second chance to change that. In 2016, they voted against abolishing this clause. This year, the issue is back on the ballot. The measure wouldn't immediately have a legal impact, but it could empower some prisoners to take legal action against their working conditions and pay. Read More.

 

POLITICS

 

Voting Rights

States have spent much of the past decade enacting restrictive voting and voter registration laws. But in November, ballots in Florida, Maryland, Michigan and Nevada have measures that aim to make it easier for people to vote and register. The marquee vote is on Florida's Amendment 4, which would automatically restore felons' voting rights in a state with a quarter of the nation's disenfranchised felons. Meanwhile, voters in Arkansas and North Carolina will decide whether to enact voter ID requirements. Read More.

 

Term Limits

Four years ago, Arkansas lawmakers snuck a term-limits extension onto the ballot, and it passed. Since then, several of the state's lawmakers have been convicted on corruption charges. The statehouse scandals sparked a push to bring back the stricter term limits. But, the measure still has a chance of getting thrown off the ballot by the state Supreme Court. Read More.

 

MEAT SALES

California could pass what advocates say are the world's strongest protections for animals raised for meat and eggs. The measure would ban the sale of meat and eggs from animals confined to areas that don't meet minimum space requirements. But several animal rights groups, including PETA, want voters to reject it. Read More.

 

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME

California, the world's sixth-largest economy, could become the next state to ditch the clock-changing practice. Supporters of the ballot measure argue that it would have medical benefits, reduce energy use and aid agriculture. Opponents say it's a solution in search of a problem. Florida passed a law in March to stop observing daylight saving time, but it has yet to receive the necessary Congressional approval to enact it. Read More.

 

TAXES

 

Education Funding

In a year with a wave of teacher strikes over education funding, voters in two states will get a say on the matter. In Colorado, where inflation-adjusted teacher salaries have decreased, a ballot measure would raise income taxes to increase funding for schools. In Oklahoma, one of the least-funded public school systems in the country, the ballot measure would give schools more flexibility to spend local property tax revenue how they want. Read More.

 

Service Tax Ban

Governments have struggled to raise revenue since the recession, leading some to start taxing services like Netflix and yoga. But in November, Arizona could become the second state to ban any expansion of the tax on services. The measure is supported by many industries but opposed by policy experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle, including Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Read More.

 

Supermajorities

Republican lawmakers in Florida want voters to approve a supermajority requirement that theoretically would make it harder to raise taxes. But based on the experience of the 14 states that currently require supermajority requirements, it's debatable whether they actually do keep taxes down. The push comes as some predict the midterms will move the state more left, with Democrats who likely need tax increases to keep some of their campaign promises. Read More.

 

Property Taxes

At a time when the median U.S. home price has risen by 40 percent in five years, voters in California and Louisiana face ballot measures that would reduce their property taxes. California's would help seniors, the disabled or people who are homeless as the result of a natural disaster. The proposal is controversial because it expands the state’s existing constitutional limit on property taxes. Louisiana's measure would phase in homeowners’ new property taxes over four years. Read More.

 

Income Tax Cap

Only two states -- Georgia and North Carolina -- cap how high income tax rates can go. North Carolina wants to lower its limit even more. The NAACP, which made an attempt to block the measure, argues that the lower cap "over time, will act as a tax cut only for the wealthy." Others worry it would hamstring future policymakers' ability to raise revenue. Read More.

 

TRANSPORTATION

 

Gas Taxes

It's unusual to see statewide -- as opposed to local -- ballot measures on transportation funding, but this year, there are several. In California, voters could roll back a gas tax that's only a year old. Missouri voters look poised to raise their fuel tax for the first time in 22 years. Utah could become only the second state to use gas tax money to fund schools. Meanwhile, Colorado voters face a confusing trio of conflicting ballot measures on transportation funding. Read More.

 

Lockboxes

Voters in red and blue states like them. But historically, transportation "lockboxes" do little to address transportation problems. Nevertheless, Connecticut voters have a chance to make sure the tax money they thought was supposed to build and fix roads and other transportation projects is actually used for that purpose. But while lockboxes protect existing transportation funding, they do little to raise more money to address long-term infrastructure needs. Read More.

 

PAYDAY LOANS

In a year when the federal government is dialing back financial regulations, Colorado could become the 16th state to limit the notoriously high interest rates on payday loans. The vote itself exemplifies how strong consumer protections are increasingly being left to the states. Meanwhile, Congress is considering two proposals that could exempt some types of payday lenders from the regulations that Colorado -- and other states -- are passing. Read More.

 

CRIME VICTIMS' RIGHTS

Voters in six states -- Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina and Oklahoma -- will vote on a so-called Marsy's Law, which typically tighten parole requirements and guarantee victims or their families the right to know a defendant's whereabouts at all points during the legal process. Some members of the law enforcement and legal communities oppose Marsy's Law, arguing that it unnecessarily puts a strain on legal and court systems. Still, these measures almost always pass at the ballot box. Read More.

 

JUDICIAL POWER

The state where lawmakers put every justice on trial this year is also the only state where the legislature has no control over the judicial budget. That is likely to change in November. The ongoing impeachment trials -- some of which were sparked by justices misusing public funds -- make it likely that voters will add this judicial check. Read More.

 

HUNTING

North Carolina voters will decide whether to codify the right to hunt and fish in the state’s constitution, something more than 20 states have done, mostly through the ballot box. Supporters of the NRA-backed measure argue it would protect the pasttime from future regulations, while opponents argue it is unnecessary and fails to restrict what they see as inhumane methods of hunting. Read More.

News Staff | News Staff