With the midterm elections drawing near, in addition to the 37 seats in the U.S. Senate, 435 seats in the House of Representatives, and gubernatorial races in 37 states and 2 territories up for grabs, there will also be 155 issues from 36 states on the ballot, 42 of those (from 24 states) include citizen initiatives.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California will have the most amount of initiatives with nine; followed by Colorado and Washington each with six, Oregon has four, while Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri and Montana each have three initiatives on the ballot.
Along with the 42 initiatives, Legislatures have placed more than 100 measures on the ballot for voters to decide.
What follows, then, is a brief overview of some of the measures and initiatives voters will decide on November 2nd.
• California: Voters will vote on Proposition 19, which if approved, would allow state residents over the age of 21 to grow and transport marijuana while taxing its sales, so long as it is for personal use. In 1996, medical marijuana was passed in California.
Currently, no state has legalized marijuana; though at least 12 states have "decriminalized" first-time, personal-consumption possession amounts of marijuana (See: The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
• Arizona: Voters will vote on citizens-initiative Prop. 203, which if approved, will legalize marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and Alzheimer's disease.
If this initiative passes, Arizona will become the 15th state to allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana. ) See ProCon.org)
• South Dakota: If approved, the Medical Marijuana Act, Initiated Measure 13 would legalize marijuana possession, use, distribution and cultivation by persons registered with the South Dakota Department of Health; the registrant must prove they have a debilitating medical condition and that the potential benefits of the marijuana would outweigh the health risk. Minors would be allowed to register with parental consent.
• Oregon: If Measure 74 passes, Oregon will join Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Maine in creating dispensary systems in which farmers can become licensed by the State to grow and distribute marijuana crops to medical marijuana dispensaries. Dispensaries and growers would be subject to state regulation, which also requires them to pay an initial fee of $1,000-$2,000 along with paying the state 10 percent of their gross income.
Voters in Oregon approved medical marijuana in 1998.
• Voters in Arizona vote on Prop. 106, which if passed, would amend the state's Constitution and prohibit any law that mandates participation in a specific health-care program, including insurance. Voters in Colorado and Oklahoma will vote on similar measures; while the Florida Supreme Court disallowed the amendment from being put on the ballot. In August, 71 percent of the voters in Missouri passed a similar measure prohibiting mandated health insurance.
• Voters in Maine and Oregon will be asked whether to approve casino gaming. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures,32 states currently allow gambling that range from bingo parlors to casinos, while Commercial casinos (non-tribal establishments) and racetrack casinos, or racinos, have been authorized in 23 states.
• Voters in Oklahoma will be asked whether to amend the state's Constitution which would require Oklahoma to meet surrounding states' average per-student spending within three years. This measure was put on the ballot by voters who collected the necessary signatures.
According to a report from the the National Center for Education Statistics, Oklahoma ranked 49th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in per-pupil expenditures in 2008.
The controversial measure, ``State Question 744' 'just one of 11 questions on the ballot in Oklahoma is projected to cost $1.7 billion over three years to implement
• In California, voters will vote on Proposition 23, which if approved, would suspend the state's greenhouse-gas law (AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) until the state's unemployment rate dips below 5.5 percent. California's unemployment is currently at a crippling 12.4 percent.
The greenhouse law as it stands now requires greenhouse gas emissions to be slashed to 1990 levels by 2020.
• Missouri voters will vote on a proposed amendment to the state's Constitution in Amendment 2 or the Missouri Prisoner of War Property Tax Exemption, which if approved, will exempt former prisoners of war from paying property taxes on their home.
• In South Dakota, voters will be voting on ``Referred Law 12'', which if passed, will ban smoking in all workplaces, bars, restaurants, video lottery establishments and the Deadwood casinos.
Currently, 28 states along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have passed smoke-free laws that cover restaurants and bars.
• In reaction to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick being charged with 10 felony counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice, Michigan voters will be presented with an amendment to the state Constitution, which if approved, would prohibit persons convicted of a felony while in office from holding elective or appointive office and some other positions of public employment for up to 20 years.
• With four of the last eight governor's having been convicted on corruption charges, Illinois voters will decide whether to amend the state Constitution and give voters the power to remove the governor from office. If approved, the provision would require signatures equal to 15 percent of the total votes cast for governor. The petition would additionally have to be backed up by 20 members of the state House and 10 members of the state Senate.
• In addition to electing a new governor, Vermont voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment over whether to allow 17 year-olds the right to vote in a primary, so long as they turn 18 by the time of the general election. If approved, Vermont would join 10 other states which allow 17 year-olds to vote.
• With the Legislature referring Proposition 107 on the ballot in Arizona, voters will be asked whether to amend the state Constitution and ban preferential treatment against any individual or group, on the basis of race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education and contracting. If approved, Arizona would join California, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington who successfully passed affirmative-action bans.
Hunting and Fishing Rights
• Voters will consider whether to add the right to hunt and fish to their state Constitutions in Arizona, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee. If passed, The Legislature would decide whether to grant authority to the state's Game and Fish Commission, giving more power to hunters rights' at the expense of wildlife protection. Currently, 10 states have the right to hunt and fish in their constitution, with Vermont’s right stretching back to 1777.
Right to Bear Arms
• Voters in Kansas will be asked to clarify an old provision (1905) in the state's Constitution which in its literal interpretation restricts gun ownership to militias. If approved, the provision clarifies an individual’s right to bear arms for the defense of family, home and state, for hunting and recreation and for any other lawful purpose.
• Voters in the state of Washington will vote on Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220, which if approved, will deny bail to a person who has been charged with a crime punishable by life in prison. The proposed measure, also known as the Lakewood Constitutional Amendment was prompted by the case of Maurice Clemmons, a convicted felon who murdered four policemen in Lakewood, Washington on November 29, 2009. A week before the gruesome shootings, Clemmons was released from jail after posting a $150,000 bail bond stemming from assault and rape charges.
Currently, judges can only restrict bail for persons charged with crimes that will land them on death row.
• Voters in Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and Montana will vote whether their respective states should hold a constitutional convention. These questions are put to voters automatically at regular intervals (usually every 10 years) by state constitutions
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures; Office of the Secretary of State from select state Web sites.
Web sites to keep in mind:
November 2nd Ballot Measures from the National Conference of State Legislatures