34 State Ballot Measures to Watch This Election

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from watching the news, but the presidential contest is not the only thing you’ll be voting for this November. As Ballotpedia details, there are also 148 ballot measures spread across 35 states that voters will be tasked with weighing in on.

Here are 34 of the most interesting and potentially influential ballot measures that you should keep your eye on this election season:

1 – 4. Minimum Wage

  • Colorado $12 Minimum Wage Amendment
  • Maine Minimum Wage Increase Initiative, Question 4
  • Washington Minimum Wage Increase, Initiative 1433
  • South Dakota Decreased Youth Minimum Wage Referendum, Referred Law 20

It looks like voters are finding a way to provide workers with a living wage without the cooperation of legislators. Both Colorado and Maine have initiatives that would gradually increase their states’ minimum wage to $12 by the years 2020. Washington is even more ambitious by pushing for $13.50 in 2020, plus mandatory paid sick leave.

South Dakota is the one state going in the opposite direction. There, voters must decide if minors can be paid a full dollar below the minimum wage.

5. Health Care

  • Colorado States Health Care System, Amendment 69

The Affordable Care Act permits states to create their own health care systems, and some in Colorado want to take advantage of that. The idea is not to undermine the ACA so much as find a way to implement something similar to a single-payer (i.e., universal health care) system.

In order to pay for this system, the state would implement a 10 percent income tax. If Amendment 69 passes, best believe that the rest of the country will be watching to see how feasible universal health care really is in America.

6 – 9. Gun Control Laws

  • Maine Background Checks for Gun Sales Initiative, Question 3
  • Nevada Gun Purchase Background Checks Initiative, Question 1
  • California Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine Ban, Proposition 63
  • Washington Individual Gun Access Prevention by Court Order, Initiative 1491

Both Maine and Nevada are attempting to close the existing gun show loophole, requiring everyone to get a background check when purchasing a firearm, not just from licensed dealers.

In California, voters will have to decide whether the government should restrict people from buying absurdly large magazines which are often used in mass shootings and are considered unnecessary for recreational shooting or self-defense.

The NRA isn’t a fan of that, but it’s perhaps even more outraged at Washington’s attempt for police or family members to file an order that would temporarily restrict a mentally ill or potentially violent person from purchasing a firearm.

10 – 11. Campaign Finance Rules

  • South Dakota Revision of State Campaign Finance and Lobbying Laws, Initiated Measure 22
  • Washington State-Provided Campaign Financing Funded by a Non-Resident Sales Tax, Initiative 1464

In age of super PACs and exorbitant campaign spending, two states are trying to rein in the corruption by establishing a system for publicly funded elections that similarly limits outside campaign donations and thwarts lobbyist power. Success in these states could help turn the tide for campaign finance laws in other states moving forward.

12 – 20. Marijuana

  • Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act
  • Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Amendment 2
  • Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative, I-182
  • North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative
  • California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Proposition 64
  • Nevada Marijuana legalization Initiative, Question 2
  • Maine Legalize Marijuana Initiative, Question 1
  • Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization, Question 4
  • Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Proposition 205

By far, the most popular subject for ballot propositions in 2016 is marijuana. Four states – Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota – are asking voters whether pot should be allowed for medicinal purposes.

Five more states – California, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and Arizona – are pushing the envelope even further. There, voters will decide whether recreational marijuana should be legalized. We could potentially see a lot of new states toking up alongside Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and Washington come November.

21 – 22. Animal Welfare

  • Massachusetts Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment, Question 3
  • Oregon Wildlife Trafficking Prevention, Measure 100
  • Oklahoma, State Question 777

Too often animals are kept in inhumane conditions, so animal rights groups in Massachusetts are hoping to make a difference with this ballot question. If it passes, animal products (certain meats and eggs) could not be sold in the state if the animal it came from was trapped in a cage or pen that was too small for the animal to stand, lie down, stretch and pivot.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, voters will have a chance to officially ban the sale of items that use parts from endangered animals. Conservationists are all about doing their part to end poaching, but critics claim that this measure is too far removed from where the actual problem occurs for this to make a real impact.

In Oklahoma, family farmers and animal advocates are opposing State Question 777, a measure that would amend the state constitution with a so-called “right to farm.” Unfortunately, the measure is written so broadly that it could include other “agricultural” practices, like puppy mills, horse slaughter and raising gamefowl for cockfighting.

23 – 26. Death Penalty

  • California Death Penalty Repeal, Proposition 62
  • Nebraska Death Penalty Repeal Referendum
  • Oklahoma Death Penalty, State Question 776

While California is trying to officially get rid of the death penalty once and for all, Nebraska is taking the opposite approach. After state legislators banned the death penalty last year, some in Nebraska put the referendum on the ballot in the hopes of bringing capital punishment back.

Oklahoma seems similarly bloodthirsty. The initiative in this state attempts to ensure that if one method of execution is deemed unconstitutional that the government must employ another way of killing inmates that is still considered constitutional.

27. Voter IDs

  • Missouri Voter ID, Constitutional Amendment 6

As voter ID laws get struck down around the country, Missouri seeks to add the presentation of identification at the polls to its own constitution. If it passes, Missourians without proper government-recognized documents would be unable to vote in subsequent elections.

28 – 29. Hunting

  • Kansas Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment  
  • Indiana Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment

You know how gun owners are constantly worried that someone will come take away their right to shoot things? That’s precisely why both of these states are determined to explicitly add the right to hunt and fish into their respective constitutions.

To be clear, a “no” vote would in no way change hunting laws in the states. However, a “yes” vote would probably make it pretty difficult to pass even mild hunting laws out of concern for public safety or animal welfare.

30. Instant Runoff Voting

  • Maine Ranked Choice Voting Initiative, Question 5

Maine is seriously considering changing the way its elections function by instituting ranked-choice voting. With this system, voters would get to order their preference for all contestants running.

No longer would voters feel compelled to vote for the lesser of two evils – if no candidate received the majority of first place votes, second place votes would be tallied until a winner is produced.

This system is already enjoyed by other parts of the world like Australia and helps to break up a two-party monopoly. If adopted, Maine would become a good test case for how this system could work throughout America.

31. Plastic Bags

  • California Plastic Bag Ban Referendum, Proposition 61

In 2014, the state legislator passed Bill 270, which would phase out single-use plastic bags in stores. The plastic industry has objections to this idea, though, and this proposition is an attempt to overturn it. Voters will have to choose between the environment and convenience on this one.

32. Legislator Pay

  • Minnesota Board to Set State Legislative Salaries, Amendment 1

How is that lawmakers can never seem to agree on a budget for just about anything, yet when their own salaries go up for a vote, a raise is practically guaranteed? Minnesota will give voters a chance to create a separate board to determine legislator pay to potentially avoid this conflict of interest.

33. Religion

  • Oklahoma Public Money for Religious Purposes, State Question 790

When the Oklahoma Supreme Court required that a popular Ten Commandments monument placed at the Oklahoma Capitol be taken down because it was in violation of the state constitution, some Christians decided to just change the state constitution in order to put it back.

Of course, voter approval of this ballot proposition could have wider reaching impacts than on just a single monument by obscuring the supposed separation of church and state.

34. Slavery

  • Colorado No Exception to Involuntary Servitude Prohibition, Amendment T

Wait, a state is having to vote on slavery? In 2016? Apparently, there’s a weird, outdated bit in the constitution of Colorado that says, “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime…”

It’s that “except as punishment for crime” part that’s being addressed in the amendment. Coloradoans might not be actively enslaving criminals, but legislators are hoping that voters will help them wipe this from the books anyway.

To see all of the ballot measures, and which – if any – are on your state’s ballots, be sure to check out Ballotpedia.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

I don't understand why voter ID laws are so bad. Almost everyone has one, you have to have one to do almost everything these days. If you don't have a driver's license, the state will give you one for a nominal fee ($5.00 the last I heard) who can't afford that?

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Elaine W.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks for pointing out very important issues. Study and be sure your yes or no vote expresses your intended choice. Sometimes they seem backwards to me. Be prepared and VOTE!

ERIKA SOMLAI2 years ago


Katie and Bill D.
Katie & Bill D2 years ago

Sometimes the wording is not what you think, read every word and understand it/ and understand it all sometimes it's made out to be the wrong way, so you vote like they want! If you are reading too fast you may just think it's what you do want. Slow down at the polls. take your time Voting. Especially with yes and no .

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle2 years ago

I am curious to see how the Marijuana vote goes. As of now, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Washington D. C. are the only states that allow for legal recreational pot sales.Federal law creates a complication by placing Cannabis on the list as a Schedule One drug. That is a drug that has no practical or medical use. Because of this Most banks and Credit unions will not handle money from Cannabis businesses. These businesses can not use or take bank checks or credit cards. The problem could easily be solved if Congress (in its wisdom) would change pots classification to either Schedule II or IV. So far, no one in Congress seems to have the guts to do so.

ERIKA SOMLAI2 years ago


Peggy B.
Peggy B2 years ago

Interesting article. TYFS

Sherry Kohn
Sherry K2 years ago

Many thanks to you !

Margie FOURIE2 years ago

Thank you