With the presidential election coming up, voters tend to focus on the presidential candidates, Senate and House races and other national and local candidates. However, in my opinion, there is one topic that seems to be limited in coverage but significant in daily lives—ballot measures that will be on the November 2020 election ballot for many states.
Ballot measures are defined by Ballotpedia (www./ballotpedia.org/Ballotmeasure) as “a law, issue or question that appears on a state or local ballot for voters to decide.”
There are different ballot measures, including those by citizens or ballot initiatives, legislatively referred ballot measures and veto referendums launched by citizens.
In my opinion, ballot measures’ strengths are their freedom from the divisiveness of partisanship, the fact that they are proposed by citizens or legislators and not candidates and that they are unique to individual states. Ballot measures are snapshots of what individual states are voicing in that election cycle and the citizens’ immediate needs, without involving specific candidates. Ballot questions are made by states and localities, not by federal officials.
Politicians vote on the policy according to their party in order to get into party leadership or because they fear getting primaried. Politicians vote on the policy according to special interests, donors and lobbyist groups to collect donations to fund their political campaigns and other ambitions. Many politicians say, and put on the facade, that they represent their constituents, but that is limited to an extent. On the other hand, I like that ballot questions can be chosen by the people (even though some states have restrictions on this) and can give the voice back to people in a state in regard to what they would like to change. In essence, it is one of the only ways to vote on policy direction.
The importance of state ballot questions is understated, and this civic and democratic tool can affect laws and policy changes in a state. Not every state will have questions on the November 2020 election ballots, however this is a vital tool to bring democracy back to the people. It allows them to construct, campaign and vote on ballot questions representing their state.
These are the ballot questions at the statewide level in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Washington D.C., provided by Ballotpedia:
Question 1: State and Local Government Budgets, Spending and Finance: Authorizes the Maryland General Assembly to increase, decrease or add items to the state budget as long as such measures do not exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor.
Question 2: Gambling: Authorizes sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities.
Question 1: Business Regulation and Transportation: Concerns access to mechanical data in a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics or telematics systems.
Question 2: Elections: Enacts a ranked-choice voting system for elections in Massachusetts.
Question 1: Marijuana: Legalizes the possession and use of marijuana.
Question 2: Taxes: Makes peacetime veterans eligible to receive the veterans’ property tax deduction.
Question 3 Redistricting: Delays the state legislative redistricting process and use of new districts if census data is received after Feb. 15.
Question 1: Constitutional Language: Amends the Rhode Island Constitution to remove “Providence Plantations” from the official state name.
Question 1: Redistricting: Creates a redistricting commission to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
Question 2: Taxes: Exempts one motor vehicle owned by a totally disabled veteran from property taxes.
Question 1: Law: Declares that investigations and arrests related to non-commercial prices with entheogenic plants and fungi are among the district’s lowest law enforcement priorities.
If you did not see your state in this list, you could go to the Ballotpedia link (https://ballotpedia.org/2020_ballot_measures) to see what questions are on the ballot in your state.