From clean elections to transgender rights to marijuana legalization, voters across the United States will weigh in on progressive issues via local and statewide ballot questions this Tuesday.
Here, Common Dreams runs down the high-profile races to watch:
Clean Elections in Maine
Maine’s Question 1 would strengthen the state’s Clean Election Act by:
- increasing funding for the Maine Clean Elections Fund from $2 million to $3 million by eliminating $6 million in “low-performing, unaccountable” corporate tax exemptions, deductions, or credits “with little or no demonstrated economic development effect”;
- upping penalties for violating campaign finance disclosure rules;
- adjusting political ad disclosure rules to require the disclosure of a campaign’s top three funders; and
- allowing candidates to qualify for additional funds.
Supported by a wide range of local and national pro-democracy organizations, Question 1 would ensure that “candidates throughout Maine can run for office without being reliant on special interests and big money donors,” U.S. Sen. Angus King, an Independent, wrote in an op-ed last month.
The state’s Republican governor, Paul LePage, who has called taxpayer-funded political campaigns “welfare for politicians” and a “scam,” opposes Question 1, saying recently that the proposal was “like giving my wife my checkbook.”
Maine’s largest city, Portland, will also vote Tuesday on an initiative to raise the city’s standard minimum wage for workers at large businesses to $15 per hour by 2017 and boost the minimum pay for all private employees in the city to $15 per hour by 2019.
Public Campaign Financing in Seattle, Washington
Seattle voters in King County, Washington will say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to Initiative Measure No. 122, which seeks to increase public participation in government through laws regulating campaign finance and elections—and, with its “democracy vouchers,” would be the first system of its kind in the country.
According to Ballotpedia, the ballot measure would set up a voucher system by which all Seattle voters would be given four $25 vouchers that they could give to a candidate or candidates of their choosing, provided the candidate adheres to certain campaign contribution limits. The vouchers would be funded, in part, by a 30-year annual property tax levy of about $3,000,000, requiring a rate of approximately $1.94 per 100,000 assessed property value.
Among other provisions, the initiative would also:
- require more precise reporting of a candidate’s personal and family finances;
- prohibit candidate campaign contributions from any person or entity that has $250,000 in contracts with the city or has had $250,000 in contracts with the city in the last two years. It would also prohibit candidates from accepting contributions from anyone who has paid $5,000 to lobby the city in the last 12 months;
- require that any signature gatherer that is being paid must display a sign or badge that says: PAID SIGNATURE GATHERER; and
- prohibit elected officials and their high-level staff from lobbying the city government within three years of leaving office.
“Honest Elections Seattle is our best chance at reducing the role of money in Seattle politics,” said Seattle City Council member Estevan Muñoz-Howard. “We already have some of the most expensive city council races in the country, which are funded by less than 1% of our city’s population. This initiative will amplify the voices of regular people and reduce the role that wealthy donors and paid lobbyists play in setting our city’s priorities.”
As John Light wrote for Moyers & Company on Monday: “Advocates think that the initiative will incentivize candidates to spend more time with voters, hoping to win their vouchers, and less time with well-heeled special-interest donors. Influential Seattle companies seem to agree: Microsoft and a number of other heavy hitters have mobilized money to oppose the initiative.”
Transgender Protections in Houston, Texas
In its run-down of Election Day 2015, Daily Kos notes that it’s “a crowded race” to become the next mayor of Houston, America’s fourth-largest city.
However, there’s another major outcome to watch for in Houston on Tuesday—the referendum on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).
On the ballot as Proposition 1, HERO would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity—criteria not covered by federal anti-discrimination laws—especially “in city employment, city services, city contracting practices, housing, public accommodations, and private employment.”
Supported by civil rights groups including the ACLU of Texas, the NAACP Houston Branch, and Equality Texas, the ordinance has garnered the support of more than 60 local businesses. It would exempt religious institutions.
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