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A Look At Ballot Measures Around The Country


This year's midterm elections will prove to be some of the most consequential votes Americans take. Along with all the major races on the ballot - governors, senators, representatives - many voters will be making decisions on ballot measures. We invited Alan Greenblatt of Governing magazine to give us a look at certain ideas that are popping up in similar forums state to state. Welcome.

ALAN GREENBLATT: Well, it's good to be with you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So when we're talking about ballot measures, just give us an example of the kinds of things that we're talking about, generally speaking, for those who may not know what they are.

GREENBLATT: Well, basically, voters get to decide on whether something becomes law or, in some cases, an amendment to the state constitution. So, you know, in recent years, we had the spate of more than 30 states that banned same-sex marriages until the Supreme Court ruled that was a right. We've had a lot of minimum-wage increases that have been approved by voters. We have had marijuana legalized in several states. There's a big range of issues.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One topic that seems to be arising on ballots in many states is that of voting rights and ballot access. Nineteen different states are dealing with this issue this cycle. Generally, what is the purpose of these ballot measures?

GREENBLATT: Well, there's sort of two buckets. So there's a lot of election-related measures this year because voting has become a highly partisan issue itself, with Republicans tending to worry more about safety and sanctity of the ballot and having measures such as voter ID requirements, which we're going to see in a couple states this year. On the other side, Democrats have been pushing more voter access, if you will - automatic voter registration, that kind of thing.

And an issue that's come up in a number of states lately is whether former felons should be able to vote. Florida has one of the biggest ballot measures this year, and it would extend voting rights to former felons there except for people convicted of murder or sex crimes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And this is important because, as we know, the prison population tends to be overwhelmingly people of color. And what are the polls saying? I mean, is it receiving support?

GREENBLATT: Yeah, I think it's going to be close. Like I said, you'll need a supermajority vote, and it may be tough to get.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Abortion is obviously a hot-button issue at this moment - actually, at all moments but particularly now. And a lot of states are also looking at that issue in the ballots. What are they looking at?

GREENBLATT: Well, if the Supreme Court has some kind of reversal of Roe v. Wade or parts of it, what would happen is it would go to the states. I mean, of course, it's possible that Congress will pass abortion restrictions itself. But there are already states that are, in a way, prepping for that moment. And there are states that have trigger laws where if the Supreme Court says Roe v. Wade is no longer applicable, they will automatically ban abortion. There are bans from before Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973, that are still on the books in 10 states. Massachusetts, a couple months ago, took its off the books.

So in West Virginia and Alabama, they both have constitutional amendments basically saying there'd be no right to abortion. So if the Supreme Court somehow says there's no federal right under the federal Constitution to abortion, these states will then have a de facto ban in place as well. And the third state with an abortion measure is Oregon, which would take away Medicaid funding for abortions.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And why are they doing this now?

GREENBLATT: Well, because it's an active issue. We're - we may see a change in the legal landscape around abortion with a new conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Alan Greenblatt, staff writer at Governing magazine, thank you very much.

GREENBLATT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.