AP Photo/Tony Dejak Voters cast their vote at the athletic wing of Orange High School Tuesday, November 3, 2015, in Moreland Hills, Ohio. T uesday’s elections didn’t garner much attention within the Beltway, or from voters themselves, as illustrated by the abysmally low turnout levels across the country. But there was plenty hanging in the balance during this off-year cycle, mostly through a vast spectrum of different ballot initiatives. There was some good, a lot of bad, and some downright ugly. The Good The big winner was good government reform. In Maine and Seattle—quite literally from coast to coast—voters approved groundbreaking measures that work to curb the influence of big money and special interests and empower small donors. Maine voters passed Question 1, which bolsters funding to the state’s Clean Election program, increases transparency of outside spending, and enhances enforcement of campaign-finance violations. Seattle voters approved the Honest Elections initiative with...
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin speaks at a candidates forum during a meeting of county judge executives and magistrates conference, in Louisville, Kentucky, Friday, June 19, 2015. Welcome to The American Prospect ’s weekly newsletter highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. (Compiled by Justin Miller —Edited by Harold Meyerson ) D espite the widespread belief that the 2016 election is the only political thing that matters for the nation’s future, here’s a public service announcement: Although it’s an off year, yesterday’s elections mattered. Kentucky remains the only Southern state to be free of a right-to-work law, but that could change now that Tea Party conservative Matt Bevin won the governor’s race. The AFL-CIO and its political-organizing arm Working America had invested substantial resources backing Jack Conway’s Democratic bid against Bevin, according to a report from WFPL News . Bevin is...
While coverage of the 2016 presidential election (which is still 12 months away) ramps up, it’s easy to forget that tomorrow is still Election Day. The national political stakes may not be high, but there are a number of ballot measures that could have resounding impacts on state and city-level politics.
Here’s a quick preview of some of the initiatives that voters across the country will be considering:
Campaign-finance rules could be drastically changed if Maine voters approve Question 1 on the ballot. Backed by a grassroots coalition of good-government advocates, the measure would bolster the state’s public campaign-funding system to better compete with increases in outside spending, increase penalties for those who violate campaign-finance laws, and work to shine a light on dark money. Here’s a good explainer on the measure from the Bangor Daily News.
Voters in Portland, the state’s biggest city, will also consider a measure that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Portland’s city council recently voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Critics have vehemently argued that the city’s economy cannot handle an increase to $15, while supporters say it’s necessary for workers to earn a living wage.
Seattle residents will consider tomorrow whether to institute an innovative public campaign-finance system that would give voters $100 in vouchers, to distribute to candidates as they see fit. This would be a big victory for campaign-finance reformers who see vouchers as a promising way to get big-money influence out of politics.
On the other side of the state, in Spokane, a bold new Worker Bill of Rights would unilaterally improve conditions for the city’s workers. As In These Times has reported, the ballot measure would increase the minimum wage, guarantee equal pay for equal work, protect against wrongful termination, and prioritize worker rights over corporate rights.
Statewide, Washingtonians will decide on a controversial tax measure that critics say amounts to nothing more than “legislative blackmail.” Long-time anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman is backing the initiative, which would cut the state’s sales tax by 1 percent if the legislature doesn’t reinstate a constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds majority to pass any tax hike.
Ohioans will vote on two major ballot measures tomorrow—one that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana and another that would make the state’s redistricting process bipartisan.
Many marijuana-legalization advocates are skeptical of the ballot initiative, given that deep-pocketed investors who stand to gain a monopoly over commercial growing rights are bankrolling the measure. Another measure on the Ohio ballot aims to nullify the legalization initiative, if it passes.
Also on the ballot is a measure that would work to reduce political gerrymandering in the state’s redistricting process. The current system uses a five-member partisan board that critics say has created district borders that reduce the power and representation of minorities across the state. The measure would reform the system by creating a seven-member board appointed in a more bipartisan manner.
As a state that is perennially on the bottom of national education rankings, voters in Mississippi will decide on a measure that advocates say is an attempt to improve education standards by changing the way the state funds public schools. The measure would force the legislature to adhere to a 1997 state law that was meant to increase public-school funding allotments. However, the law’s funding formula has only been met twice. If this measure is passed, lawmakers would be required to fully fund public schools, or relinquish their power to a county judge.
From campaign finance and tax reform to public-education funding and minimum wages, these are all likely to be central to the 2016 presidential election. And tomorrow, we’ll get a peak at how some possible policy solutions fare with voters.
(Photo: AP/Wichita Eagle/Brian Corn) An Amazon warehouse in Kansas Welcome to The Labor Prospect, our weekly round-up highlighting the best reporting and latest developments in the labor movement. Tales of the Modern Worker E ven Doc Brown couldn’t have predicted the current plight of the American worker. We’ve heard the horror stories of fulfillment centers of online shopping companies like Amazon—but never have we heard it as David Jamieson told it, with the harrowing story of Jeff Lockhart Jr. After a long spell of unemployment, Lockhart finally found work as a perma-temp warehouse worker when Amazon opened up shop near his home in Virginia. Working the overnight shift, Lockhart operated at a break-neck pace in the hope of Amazon taking him on as a direct employee , with better pay and access to health care. One night, he was unresponsive on the warehouse floor—he died soon after from a sudden heart attack that may have been linked to his hectic working conditions. But because both...
(Photo: AP/Morry Gash) Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announces the suspension of his presidential campaign on September 21. N ow that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has abandoned his presidential bid, he and a network of powerful conservative allies with close ties to the Koch Brothers are exacting what critics say is blatant political vengeance on his in-state critics, by targeting the laws that have effectively deterred or punished political corruption. Last week, Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Assembly passed three bills that together would completely gut existing campaign-finance laws, blunt prosecutors’ ability to investigate political corruption, and turn the state’s elections and ethics board into a partisan-controlled paper tiger. Two of the bills are now before the Republican-controlled Senate, while the third has already been signed by Walker. Good-government advocates can’t seem to overstate the impact these bills could have on a state that’s long been a beacon of...