- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2018

Election reform tops the list of 2018 statewide ballot measures, indicating that the 2020 general election could hinge in many states on what happens at the polls Tuesday.

Twenty measures in 15 states are aimed at overhauling voting requirements, campaign-finance rules, voter registration and redistricting procedures as political parties and advocacy groups move to clean up the system — or give themselves an advantage — in 2020.

Other issues before the voters include whether to expand marijuana legalization; limit abortion access; tip the scales against fossil fuels and in favor of renewable energy, and stage a mini-tax revolt against state legislatures and local governments.

Such a hefty contingent of election-minded measures is unusual, but also an indication of how important politics has become in recent years, said Patrick Potyondy, a legislative policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures Elections and Redistricting Program.

“Overall, elections have been getting increased attention for at least the last couple years, and it seems like a number of groups, individuals and organizations feel the need to take action or address areas they feel strongly about,” said Mr. Potyondy.

The election-policy push comes with voters poised to decide the fates of 155 ballot measures in 37 states, according to the Ballotpedia tally.

That number falls slightly below the norm — the average number of statewide ballot measures since 2010 in even-numbered years is 173 — while spending on citizen initiatives, constitutional amendments, legislative and citizen referenda has already topped $1 billion.

Not surprisingly, California leads the ballot-related spending with nation’s two most expensive measures: Proposition 8, a union-sponsored initiative to limit profits at kidney dialysis clinics, and Proposition 10, which would allow communities to expand rent control.

So far Proposition 8 had driven $130 million in spending and Proposition 10 stood at $100 million — in both cases, most of it from the opposition.

Other notable issues trending on state ballots include:

Elections: Three states — Colorado, Michigan and Utah — have proposals to establish redistricting commissions, while Missouri’s Amendment 1 would create the nonpartisan position of state demographer, responsible for drawing maps for consideration by legislative commissions.

Arkansas and North Carolina would require voters to present valid photo ID, while North Dakota Measure 2 would make it clear that only U.S. citizens are permitted to vote in elections. Louisiana Amendment 1 would disqualify felons from running for office for five years after completing their sentences.

Proposals to expand voter access include Florida Amendment 4, which would automatically restore voting rights for felons upon completion of their sentences. Maryland Question 2 would allow same-day voter registration, and Nevada Question 5 would automatically register eligible citizens to vote when obtaining their driver’s licenses.

Energy: Also driving ballot-measure spending are energy-related measures in the West designed to boost wind and solar power at the expense of oil, gas and coal.

Democratic billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Action is the driver behind Arizona Proposition 127 and Nevada Question 6, both of which would set a 50 percent renewable mandate on utility generation. In Washington, Initiative 1631 would enact a fee on carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants and refineries.

Colorado’s booming oil-and-gas industry has led the opposition to Proposition 112, a measure backed by Food & Water Watch that would increase the state’s 500-to-1,000-foot drilling setbacks to 2,500 feet, putting 85 percent of the state off limits to fossil-fuel development.

Marijuana: Voters in four states will consider marijuana legalization: North Dakota and Michigan on recreational pot, and Utah and Missouri on medical marijuana. Colorado has a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change the state’s hemp laws.

Abortion: Three states feature measures aimed at restricting taxpayer funding for abortions: Alabama and West Virginia, which feature proposed constitutional amendments, and Oregon, where a group of pro-life citizens are pushing a ban on public funding for abortion in the deep-blue state.

Marsy’s Law: Voters in six states will decide whether to enact a set of laws aimed at expanding the rights of victims and protecting them from the accused. Six states have already passed versions of Marsy’s Law, named after Marsy Nicholas, a college student who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

The movement has been led by her brother Henry Nicholas III, co-founder and former co-chairman of the board, president and CEO of Broadcam Corporation, whose net worth is estimated at $3.8 billion.

Taxes: Eight proposals in six states would roll back existing taxes or make it more difficult for state and local governments to raise taxes.

The most contentious may be California’s Proposition 6, which would repeal Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2017 tax on gasoline and diesel. The citizen initiative holds a slight lead in the latest polls despite its proponents being outspent by nearly 10 to 1.

Arizona Proposition 126 would prohibit state and local governments from enacting new taxes on services. Amendments in Florida and Oregon would require a two-thirds and three-fifths vote of the state legislatures respectively before raising taxes.

A North Carolina amendment would lower the state income tax rate from 10 to 7 percent, while Washington Initiative 1634 would ban taxes on groceries.

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