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Workers' rights, racial justice, and more were on the ballot this year. Here's where voters stood.

Marginalized communities had a lot at stake this election.
Prism Staff November 4th, 2020
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While much remains uncertain about the results of this year’s election, across the country results have begun to roll in on key down-ballot races and ballot initiatives that addressed some of the most major issues facing the United States. As Prism previously reported, affirmative action, criminal justice reforms, the minimum wage, and more were all on the ballot this year. Here’s where things have landed so far—we’ll continue updating as results come in.  

Workers’ rights

  • In Florida, voters came down in favor of gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. The change will bring Florida in line with the handful of other states that have approved such measures amid advocacy from the Fight for $15 movement: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

  • Colorado voters approved the creation of a program to provide workers 12 to 16 weeks of paid family leave. As previously reported, just five states and Washington, D.C. provide paid family leave for workers, and “at the federal level, all that’s guaranteed is 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for certain workers, leaving many low-wage workers unable to take advantage of it.”

  • California’s Proposition 22 passed overwhelmingly, granting companies like Uber and Lyft the green light to continue treating drivers as independent contractors not entitled to benefits and labor law protections.

Immigration

  • In Maricopa County, Arizona, incumbent Democrat Sheriff Paul Penzone continues to hold a sizable lead over Republican challenger Jerry Sheridan, a former lieutenant under Joe Arpaio, the notoriously racist Maricopa County sheriff who “terrorized communities of color” from 1993 to 2017.

  • In Tarrant County, Texas, Republican incumbent Sheriff Bill Waybourn is leading Democratic candidate Vance Keyes, despite “a trail of recent horrors inside the Tarrant County jail” under the right-wing sheriff’s watch.

  • In Oakland County, Michigan, longtime Republican Sheriff Michael Bouchard is leading Democrat and retired Wayne County Sheriff's detective and former state Sen. Vincent Gregory, who told voters he would not continue Bouchard’s practice of honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detainer requests.

  • In Hamilton County, Ohio, former sheriff’s deputy, Democrat Charmaine McGuffey, beat incumbent Democrat Sheriff Jim Neil, “who attended a Trump rally in 2016, honors ICE detainers, and has faced protests from activists,” The Appeal reported. McGuffey is Hamilton County’s first-ever female sheriff.

  • In Cobb County, Georgia, Democrat and Cobb County Police Department Major Craig Owens beat incumbent Sheriff Neil Warren. Craig, the county’s first Black sheriff, has vowed to terminate Warren’s 287(g) agreement with ICE.

  • In Gwinnett County, Georgia, Democrat Keybo Taylor beat incumbent Republican Sheriff Luis Solis. Taylor, the county’s first Black sheriff, has vowed to terminate Solis’ 287(g) agreement with ICE.

  • In Norfolk County, Massachusetts, Democrat Patrick McDermott beat incumbent Republican Sheriff Jerry McDermott, who last year championed a ballot initiative “that would have undone a state court ruling and authorized sheriffs to honor ICE detainers, which come without a judge’s signature,” The Appeal reported.

  • In Charleston County, South Carolina, sheriff’s deputy and Democrat Kristin Graziano is leading longtime Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon, who has a 287(g) agreement with ICE and detains people that ICE arrests elsewhere.

  • In Pinellas County, Florida, Republican incumbent Bob Gualtieri won a third term, beating Democratic challenger Eliseo Santana. Gualtieri has “helped design a new arrangement for Florida sheriffs to circumvent legal concerns and keep detaining people when ICE requests it; and he has contracted his office into ICE’s 287(g) program,” The Appeal reported.

Racial justice

  • In California, voters rejected Proposition 16, which would have ended the state’s 24-year ban on affirmative action. If passed, the initiative would have allowed race and gender as a consideration in hiring and college admissions. The results were expected since a poll a few weeks before Election Day showed that only one-third of voters supported the initiative.

  • Mississippians have a new state flag free of Confederate symbols. Ballot Measure 3, which approved a new “In God We Trust” magnolia design overwhelmingly passed. Mississippi was the last state in the nation to have a flag bearing Confederate symbols.

  • Rhode Island’s Name Change Amendment passed, removing “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” references from the Preamble, Article III, and Article IX of the state’s Constitution. The state is now simply named “Rhode Island.”

  • Slavery can no longer be used as a punishment for a crime in Nebraska and Utah. Both state Constitutions had included a so-called “exception clause,” mirroring the one in the 13th Amendment to the federal constitution, which permitted involuntary servitude as a form of criminal punishment.

Electoral Justice

Redistricting and gerrymandering

  • Question 3 on the New Jersey ballot passed, which affects the timing of any redistricting efforts. If the state receives any census data after February 15, 2021, the state legislative redistricting process will be postponed until after the November 2, 2021 election. Additionally, the current state legislative districts will remain in place until 2023, and if census data in the future is received after Feb. 15, the delayed timeline will also be used in future redistricting cycles.

  • Missouri Amendment 3 passed, which makes several amendments to the state’s constitution. Under the amendment, the threshold of lobbyists gifts is now $0 and campaign contribution limits for state senate campaigns have been lowered from $2,500 to $2,400. More worryingly, district maps will now be drawn based on total eligible voters, not total population, which means children, immigrants, and international students won’t count toward how district maps were redrawn. Further, redistricting will now be determined by a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor, rather than a state nonpartisan demographer.

Citizenship and ages for voting

  • Alabama Amendment 1, Florida Amendment 1, and Colorado Amendment 1 all voted “yes” to changing the wording of their respective state Constitutions from saying “every citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older has a right to vote to “only a citizen.” This doesn’t change the existing right of anyone in those states to vote, but does reflect an underlying xenophobia and fear of non-existent voter fraud.

  • California Amendment 18, which would have allowed 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in primaries and special elections, is not expected to pass.

Ranked-choice voting

Both Alaska Ballot Measure 2 and Massachusetts Question 2, which would have introduced ranked-choice voting into statewide elections, did not pass.

Puerto Rico statehood

The statehood referendum asking "Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?" looks as if it will pass. If it does, the next steps include a commission appointed by the governor to represent the territory in matters and negotiations related to statehood. However, nothing about the referendum requires acknowledgment or compels any action by the U.S. government.

Direct democracy

  • Constitutional Measure 2 in North Dakota that would have required constitutional amendments passed by voters to be subjected to a “yes/no” approval by the state legislature was defeated. Amendments to the North Dakota Constitution currently only require voter’s approval to become effective.

  • Amendment 4 in Florida, which would have also required additional steps for voter-approved constitutional amendments to become effective, rather than passing a single round of 60% or more voter approval, was also defeated.

  • The uncontroversial Montana Constitutional Revision 47 to amend the state’s constitutional language to align with the existing signature distribution requirements for initiative petitions, without changes to enforced initiative signature distribution requirements, was passed.

Campaign finance

Oregon Measure 107, which would allow the state legislature and local government to impose limits on political contributions and expenditures, was approved.

Voting rights

  • In a significant win for re-enfranchising formerly incarcerated individuals, California’s Proposition 17 passed and will amend the state Constitution to restore voting rights to people on parole for felony convictions, rather than requiring them to complete prison and parole sentences before being able to vote.

  • Question 4 passed in Nevada, which will specifically enshrine the 2002 declaration of voters’ rights into the state’s Constitution.

Criminal justice

  • California Proposition 20, which would have repealed aspects of prior criminal justice reform initiatives and effectively deepen the state’s tough-on-crime laws, did not pass.

  • In Oklahoma, a little over 60% of voters cast their ballots against State Question 85. The ballot initiative would have stripped district attorneys of their ability to seek sentence enhancements for individuals based on prior non-violent felony convictions.

  • Oregonians voted to pass Measure 110, making it the first state to decriminalize the personal possession of small amounts of all drugs. Individuals caught with small quantities of illicit drugs will now have the choice to pay a $100 fine or complete a health assessment at an addiction recovery center. Further, funds saved by the state in enacting the measure will be reallocated to the creation of drug treatment and recovery programs.

  • In a huge win for advocates of voter re-enfranchisement, California Proposition 17—which would restore the right to vote for people convicted of felonies who are on parole—passed last night.

  • Californians from all sides of the political aisle have debated the highly controversial Proposition 25, which would have replaced cash bail with a pretrial risk assessment system. Ultimately, the proposition was voted down. Advocates for the abolition of cash bail argue that these risk assessment systems are riddled with racial bias and would stand to replicate similar harms as those incurred by monetary bail.

Gender justice

  • Colorado’s Proposition 115, prohibiting abortion in Colorado after a fetus reaches 22 weeks gestational age, did not pass.

  • Kentucky’s Constitutional Amendment 1, a purported victims’ rights bill that the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations warned would undermine due process and upend the presumption of innocence,” passed.

  • Louisiana's Amendment 1, amending the state Constitution to include the sentence, "To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion,” passed.

  • Nevada’s Question 2, overturning a 2002 amendment that only recognized marriage between men and women in the state, passed.

  • Oklahoma’s State Question 805, prohibiting the state from using past non-violent felony convictions to impose a harsher sentence on people convicted of non-violent felonies, did not pass.

  • Utah’s Constitutional Amendment A, removing gendered language in the Utah Constitution and replacing it with gender-neutral language, passed.

  • Washington’s Referendum 90, requiring public schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education for all students, passed.

Environmental justice

  • Amendment 2 passed in Louisiana, which will allow the value of oil and gas coming from given wells on a property to be considered by local tax assessors in determining a property’s market value and appropriate taxes. The bill was largely uncontested and had bipartisan support.

  • Proposition 114, which would reintroduce grey wolves to the Western Slope in Colorado, currently holds a slim majority with 89% of the votes counted.

  • Michigan voters approved Michigan Proposal 1, Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment, which removes the $500 million cap on the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and will allow unlimited growth for the fund as long as oil and gas royalties continue.


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