Reprinted from Mike Malloy
While the pundits debate the control of Congress after tomorrow's election, the real human significance of tomorrow's vote might lie in several state ballot initiatives. If the Republicans do gain a majority in the Senate, it will be by a slim margin. It will make them capable of continuing their obstructionist tactics, to be sure, but would not give them a super-majority needed to stop a filibuster or over-ride the President's veto.
So at worst, Congress would be slightly more irritating and useless than at present. And there are 36 gubernatorial races to consider as well, which might have more of an impact on the 2016 Presidential race than anything that happens tomorrow.
But the juicy stuff on the ballots has less to do with individual candidates and more to do with social policies. PBS News Hour suggests 11 issues that are worthy of your attention:
1. Minimum Wage. A fascinating combination of five states -- from north and south, of red and blue stripe -- are proposing increases in their minimum wage. Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska would raise their minimum wage, over various lengths of time, from the $6- or $7-an-hour range to at or above $8. Alaska would push the lowest wage rate from $8.75 to $9.75. And Illinois would move minimum wage workers to $10 an hour.- Advertisement -
2. Ending Prohibition. Arkansas voters will decide whether to roll back prohibition in the state's many dry counties. The Natural State has one of the largest number of dry counties, where alcohol sales are prohibited, in the nation. The measure on the ballot would legalize alcohol across the state.
3. Guns. One of the most interesting ballot battles in the nation happens in Washington state. Voters there face two contrasting measures: one that would require background checks for guns purchased privately or at gun shows and another that would prohibit such background checks from being enacted. The NRA and gun-control groups are going head-to-head. (Sidenote: Alabama is also voting on guns -- with a so-called "strict scrutiny" measure to make it harder to pass restrictions on gun ownership.)
4. Abortion. Colorado voters will decide on whether to define a fetus as a person. In North Dakota, the language on the ballot would state that life begins at conception. And in Tennessee, voters will decide whether to state that there is no assumed right to an abortion, in any situation.
5. Energy vs. Environment. Some big, expensive and overlooked battles are underway in this area. North Dakotans will decide whether to set aside 5 percent of their energy tax windfall (only $2 billion -- yes, with a "B" -- a year in taxes) for land and water conservation.
Alaskans will vote on whether to help a mining operation or protect a Bristol Bay salmon fishery. And in Colorado, voters will decide whether to make it more difficult for oil and gas drillers, particularly those engaged in "fracking."
6. Keep judges longer. Hawaii will decide whether to increase the mandatory retirement for judges from 70 years old to 80 years old. Louisiana would remove its mandatory retirement age for judges altogether.- Advertisement -
7. Hunting. A fiercely-contested ballot measure in Maine would ban the use of dogs or bait in bear hunting. Alabama and Mississippi would both pass measures stating that hunting is a right.
8. Voting. Connecticut, where many New York commuters face colossal traffic jams, is asking voters if they want the chance to vote before the day of the election. Missouri's voters will decide on a potential six-day early voting window. In Montana, it's not the timing for voting, but when you can register that's on the ballot. Voter there will decide whether to end registration the Friday before an election.
9. Food. Wonder if your food is genetically modified? So do some legislators in Oregon and Colorado. Both states will vote on measure to require some kind of "genetically modified" label on such foods.
10. Marijuana. Three states and the District of Columbia are considering easing up on marijuana regulations. Ballot initiatives in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., would allow adults to possess small amounts of pot for private use. Florida's voters will decide whether to allow medical marijuana use.
11. Prison time. Two decades after passing one of the most strict "three-strikes-and-you're-out" laws in the country, California voters will decide whether to roll back penalties on a series of non-violent felonies, making them misdemeanors instead.