2016 U.S. Election: What else is America voting on?

by | Nov 8, 2016 | News

The United States Congress in Washington, D.C. (Wiki Commons)

The United States Congress in Washington, D.C. (Wiki Commons)

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By: Hunter Crowther

Most Americans will be focused on the presidential results between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump, but there are several important issues voters face at the state level.

Minimum wage, marijuana, guns and the death penalty are all key issues citizens will vote on when they cast their ballots.

Let’s take a look.

Minimum Wage

Four states – Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington – will vote on raising the minimum wage. While none are aiming for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ goal of $15 an hour (which Seattle, Wash. already approved), all four are looking at modest increases that would be gradually introduced by 2020.

If approved, Washington would increase its minimum wage to $13.50, a $4 increase from $9.47.

The other three states will vote on a bump to $12; currently, Colorado is $8.31, Arizona is $8.05 and Maine is $7.50.

Maine would also raise its minimum wage for tipped workers. Arizona and Washington would also introduce a minimum for paid sick leave.

According to the Initiative and Referendum Institute, since 2000, 15 states have had a higher minimum wage on the ballot, all of which passed.

Photo: Laura Dart

Photo: Laura Dart


California is offering a measure that would legalize possession of one ounce of marijuana, or up to eight grams of cannabis concentrates.

Nevada already passed medical marijuana in 2000. If today’s bill passes, it would legalize up to one ounce of marijuana. Revenue from a pot tax would support Kindergarten to Grade 12 education.

If approved, Maine would allow residents to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.

Arizona already has nearly 100,000 medical marijuana registrants. If recreational use passes, possession of up to one ounce of pot will be enabled. Like Nevada, revenue from a marijuana tax would be allocated to schools, as well as public drug education.

Massachusetts‘ pot bill would treat cannabis like alcohol in legal terms. Citizens would be allowed to possess one ounce of marijuana outside their home, and up to 10 ounces in an enclosed, locked space within their residence.

Florida is voting on medical marijuana use. In 2014, Florida narrowly voted against it by two per cent.

Arkansas is an outlier, with two marijuana bills.

  1. Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (Issue 6): A state constitution amendment, it would legalize doctor-approved medical cannabis treatment.
  2. Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (Issue 7): Also enables doctor-approved medical cannabis treatment, but through nonprofit compassion centres.

Montana is voting to reinstate medical marijuana. It was originally made legal in 2004, but legislative restrictions made the law nearly impossible to work.

North Dakota would legalize medical marijuana for residents who suffer from one or more debilitating illnesses. They could possess up to three ounces of pot.

Colorado, Oregon and Washington have already legalized recreational marijuana use.

Death Penalty

Before the vote, 31 states and the federal government use capital punishment. Issues like prisoner rights, morality and access to lethal drugs are on different states’ respective ballots.

California has two bills regarding the death penalty. Prop 62 repeals it, while Prop 66 changes rules within the legal system to speed up the time line from conviction to execution.

Nebraska will allow voters to either ‘retain’ or ‘repeal’ a decision made by the state legislature to eliminate the death penalty. A vote for ‘retain’ means you’re against the death penalty. ‘Repeal’ is a vote for it.

Oklahoma is voting to increase the state’s options for execution methods “not prohibited” by the U.S. Constitution.

Gun Control

The largely-Republican U.S. Congress has rejected any and all measures related to gun control. However, several states have introduced moderate conditions to gun purchases.

California would add several gun control rules, including a background check to purchase ammunition.

Maine would add background checks for buying and selling firearms.

Nevada would make it illegal to buy or sell firearms to someone without a licensed dealer conducting a federal background check.

Washington would allow courts to issue temporary orders at the request of police, family or household members to prevent people “exhibiting mental illness, violent or other behaviour indicating they may harm themselves or others” from having access to guns.