Power To The People: Some Of The Biggest Ballot Measures Of 2010

When voters head to the polls Tuesday, many won’t just be voting for senators, congressman, governors and all sorts of local officials. They’ll also have the opportunity to change their state laws in a more direct, populist way: by ballot measure. Over half the states have propositions on the ballot and TPM has collected some of the most important, fascinating, and controversial questions voters will get the chance to answer for themselves in the voting booth.

  • California Proposition 19, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative
  • If there’s one proposition making headlines in 2010, it’s California’s Proposition 19. Designed to legalize, regulate and tax the sale of marijuana, Prop 19 is frequently given credit for improving Democrats’ chances in the Golden State by driving the youth vote. Recent polling isn’t as positive for the measure as it once was — opposition leads support 50.6-43.3 — but political prognosticators like Nate Silver have theorized that some voters might be unwilling to admit their support for an illegal activity to a pollster.

  • Measure 74: Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System Act
  • Oregonians can already grow, possess, and use marijuana for a host of severe medical conditions, but Measure 74 would create a medical marijuana supply system by registering suppliers and non-profit dispensaries with the state government in addition to quadrupling the amount of marijuana they can posses.

  • Arizona’s Proposition 203 and South Dakota’s Initiated Measure 13
  • Both of these ballot measures would allow the possession, cultivation and use of marijuana for patients with ‘debilitating’ medical conditions. Arizona’s proposition would also create a network of dispensaries and is opposed by Governor Jan Brewer. Supporters of South Dakota’s Measure 13 want to avoid repeating a similar measure’s narrow loss in 2006.

Taxes and Budgets
  • California’s Proposition 24, 25 and 26
  • A slew of tax-related propositions could drastically alter California’s awful fiscal situation. Proposition 24 would repeal various corporate tax breaks, totaling about $1.3 billion in state revenue. Propositions 25 and 26 concern the state’s restrictive budget laws, which require a two-thirds majority to pass a budget or new taxes. Proposition 25 would make passing a budget require only a simple majority (opponents and supporters dispute whether it would also do the same for new taxes) while Proposition 26 would require a two-thirds majority for the legislature to pass any new ‘fees’, or as its supporters call them, ‘hidden taxes’. Groups like the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association oppose the measure because it would make it harder to impose fees for polluting or hurting public health.

  • Washington’s Initiative 1098
  • In a state with no income tax, Initiative 1098 would levy taxes on individuals making at least $200,000 and joint-filers making $400,000, in addition to lowering property, business and occupation taxes. The initiative directs any new revenues to education and health, which is probably why it received the support of famous Washington resident, education advocate and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, though not current CEO Steve Ballmer.

Social Issues
  • Amendment 62: Colorado Fetal Personhood
  • This ballot initiative is either passionately pro-life or fanatically anti-choice, depending on your point of view. Abortion would be banned in the state regardless of the mother’s health — including in cases of rape or incest — by making the use of the word ‘person’ in the state’s constitution apply to ‘every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being’. Stem-cell research and certain forms of birth control would also be banned and in-vitro fertilization highly restricted. While a similar initiative failed in 2008 and polling suggests a similar fate for the measure tomorrow, the personhood campaign is going to the mat this year, even casting President Obama as the angel of death in this web video.

  • California’s Proposition 23
  • California’s landmark emission reducing legislation has barely started taking effect and it’s already threatened by a voter proposition that would kill it. With an ad campaign paid for largely by Texas oil companies like Valero and Tesoro, Proposition 23 would suspend any state laws requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions until the state’s unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive business quarters. In other words, not any time soon.

And then there’s…
  • Illinois Governor Recall Amendment
  • This referendum could also be known as the “make sure our state is never again the nation’s laughing stock because our governor is corrupt Amendment.” And yes, South Carolina legislators considered similar initiatives to give voters the ability to recall elected officials, though not in time to put it on this year’s ballot.

  • Rhode Island Name Change Amendment, Question 1
  • It’s hard to understand this amendment unless you know the state’s full name: “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”. Citizens will have the option to change their states name to the “State of Rhode Island”, though their outgoing republican Governor Donald Carcieri is against the measure.

  • Missouri’s Proposition B: Dog Breeding Regulation Initiative
  • This proposition isn’t so much embarrassing for the state as it is for the people who came out so vigorously against a law requiring large dog breeders to, among other things, supply their puppies with daily food and water: Joe the Plumber and local Tea Party activists.

  • Oklahoma International Law Amendment, State Question 755
  • It may sound innocuous, but State Question 755 was written for one very specific purpose: to prevent the imposition of Sharia Law on Oklahoma’s courts. Yes, it’s probably a little redundant considering, well, the establishment clause, but Rep. Rex Duncan believes it “will constitute a pre-emptive strike against Sharia law coming to Oklahoma.”