As Election Day approaches, I’ve been trying to find interesting and unique angles on the midterms to report on. Obviously, there’s a lot of election coverage out there; I hope what you’re reading from WUTP is something a little different than from other news outlets.
This morning, I want to take a moment to focus on something different from the battles for the House, Senate, or governorships. Instead, let’s spend some time looking at the ballot measures that will be decided next month: the places where voters themselves will have a say on key issues directly:
Abortion, marijuana, and more: A guide to the top ballot measures to watch this year
Politicians are always saying that various issues are “on the ballot” in an election year. Usually, that’s a shorthand for saying that the fate of the issue hinges on the politicians who are selected on Election Day.
But sometimes, it’s literally true, through ballot measures that allow voters to directly decide how their state will act on a particular issue. These measures, which can either be placed on the ballot by state legislatures or through citizen petitions, are largely a result of Progressive Era reforms intended to give voters more of a say over key issues.
According to Ballotpedia, 132 ballot measures will be voted on across 37 states on November 8 — and almost $1 billion has been poured into campaigning on them. Here are the top issue areas with ballot measures worth watching this year:
Not only will abortion be a key issue in state and federal elections up and down the ballot, but five states will vote directly on the issue next month — a record number, per Ballotpedia.
Three states — California, Michigan, and Vermont — will vote on amendments to enshrine reproductive rights in their constitutions.
Meanwhile, Kentuckians will vote on an amendment stating that their constitution does not include a right to abortion (similar to the initiative rejected in Kansas in August). Finally, Montana will vote on a measure declaring that all “infants born alive,” at any stage of development, are “legal persons” and deserve medical care to preserve their life.
The must-watch measure of all of these is in Michigan, a key battleground state where the fate of abortion rights is currently up in the air due to a 1931 law banning the procedure. (The law has been blocked by a state judge.)
Per Politico, if the amendment passes, Michigan would become the first state to overturn an anti-abortion law since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June.
Five states will vote on measures to legalize recreational marijuana: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Currently, 19 states have legalized recreational marijuana use; if all five states approve their measures next month, pot will be legal in nearly half of the 50 states.
With the exception of deep-blue Maryland, this crop of referenda will be an interesting test of pot legalization’s support in Republican-controlled territory. Nationwide, a Pew Research poll in 2021 found 47% of Republicans support recreational marijuana legalization, a sea change from just a few years ago but still less than the 72% of Democrats.
Here’s an Associated Press headline that might catch you by surprise in 2022, more than 150 years after slavery was abolished: “Slavery is on the ballot for voters in 5 U.S. states.”
However, 20 state constitutions currently include language that permits slavery as a punishment for committing crimes or failing to pay debts; the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery nationwide, also includes such language.
Voters in Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont will have a chance next month to strike that language from their constitutions, banning slavery completely in the states.
Voting laws (including ballot measures themselves)
Since the 2020 election, states across the country have been considering changes to their voting laws, often to restrict voting access or undo temporary measures that were set in place during Covid.
That fight over voting access has made its way to ballot measures as well. Two states — Connecticut and Michigan — will vote on measures that would ease voting rules: the former to allow in-person, no-excuse early voting, the latter to allow ballot drop boxes, nine days of in-person early voting, and no-excuse absentee voting.
Three states will vote on measures to tighten voting rules: Arizona and Nebraska will vote on expanded voter ID requirements, while Ohio will vote on a constitutional amendment — prohibiting local governments from allowing non-citizens to vote.
Then there is Nevada, which could become the third state — after Alaska and Maine — to institute ranked-choice voting for state and federal elections.
Finally, there are referenda on referenda. Legislators in two states have placed measures on the ballot that will set a higher bar for future ballot measures, including one in Arkansas to create a 60% threshold for ballot measures to be approved and another in Arizona to do the same for ballot measures that would raise taxes. (Currently, just Florida, Washington, and Oregon have supermajority requirements for some ballot measures, with the rest allowing them to pass by simple majority.)
🚨 What else you should know
MIDTERMS: Democrats, at the White House and elsewhere, are increasingly anxious about the fate of their Senate majority, especially after Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman’s halting debate performance on Tuesday.
- Case in point: Politico moved its rating for the Arizona Senate race from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss Up” this morning, as Republican nominee Blake Masters gains on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in the polls.
- Overview: Democratic odds of keeping the Senate are down to 54 in 100, per FiveThirtyEight, the lowest they’ve been since July. They were as high as 68 in 100 just one month ago.
ECONOMY: The U.S. economy grew at a 2.6% annual rate last quarter, beating expectations and turning around from the two previous quarters of economic decline, according to a Commerce Department estimate out this morning.
- Preview: Watch for President Biden to trumpet these GDP numbers in his speech on the economy in Syracuse, New York today, as he increasingly makes an economic case as his closing midterms pitch.
CLIMATE: Of the 193 countries that pledged last year to take action to address climate change, just 26 have fully followed through, according to a new UN report. The report added that the world is “nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions” needed to avoid climate catastrophe.
- Also on Wednesday: A separate report from the UN’s climate office revealed that there are now record levels of the three main planet-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “More bad news for the planet,” the report said.
EXTREMISM: Far-right groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers are spooking election officials with their plans to sign up as poll workers, Axios reports. There have already been reports of voter intimidation at ballot drop boxes in Arizona.
- Meanwhile, in Michigan: Three men accused of plotting in 2020 to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were convicted of all charges in state court.
INVESTIGATIONS: A South Carolina judge ordered former President Trump’s final White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to testify before a Georgia grand jury investigating the 2020 election aftermath. (The case is in South Carolina because it is the state Meadows resides in.)
🗓 What your leaders are doing today
All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch or listen to it.
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9 am) and then travel to Syracuse, New York. Once there, he will deliver remarks on Micron’s plans to invest $100 billion over the next 20 years in semiconductor factories in Syracuse (3:30 pm).
The Syracuse event will give him an opportunity to highlight the CHIPS and Science Act, which subsidized semiconductor production, and to appear with Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY), who finds herself in a tight re-election race. Biden will also compare the Democratic and Republican economic agendas in his remarks.
Biden will then travel to Delaware and spend the night there.
Vice President Harris has nothing on her public schedule.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Syracuse.
The Senate will convene for a brief pro forma session (12 pm). Such sessions are held only to fulfill the constitutional obligation of meeting every three days; few members attend and no legislative business is conducted.
The House is not in session. Neither chamber of Congress is set to hold votes until November 14, after the midterms.
The Supreme Court is not in session.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and her Republican challenger Don Bolduc will face off in a debate (12 pm).
So will Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and her opponents in Alaska’s ranked-choice Seate election, Democrat Pat Chesbro and Republican Kelly Tshibaka (11 pm).
If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.
Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.