Across The Country Voting Issues Are On The Ballot Abortion And Guns Are Too

Across the Country, Voting Issues Are on the Ballot. Abortion and Guns Are, Too.

Across The Country Voting Issues Are On The Ballot Abortion And Guns Are Too

Ballot initiatives on an array of issues offer an opportunity to take the nation’s temperature, particularly when it comes to voting access.

In Connecticut, voters will decide on Tuesday whether to allow early voting. In Michigan, residents are weighing measures that supporters say will make it easier to cast ballots.

In Arizona, a proposal would add identification requirements at the polls — a move that backers argue would bolster the integrity of the vote in a state where many conservatives still deny the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

As people head to the polls in an election that will determine the balance of power in Congress, they will also vote on voting itself.

Initiatives on ballots in many states touch on some of the most divisive issues in the country, including abortion rights and gun restrictions. And a flurry of proposals reflect the disquiet that continues to endure after the 2020 presidential race, when former President Donald J. Trump took up efforts to overturn his loss and mobilize his supporters by spreading baseless claims of a stolen election.

Republican-led initiatives are responding to those concerns, and supporters say they are needed to add security to the election process. But critics — including President Biden — contend that those proposals are part of a broader pursuit to thwart access to voting and weaken the country’s elections systems, with Mr. Biden warning last week that “American democracy is under attack.”

In Arizona, where the Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor have pushed to ban the use of electronic voting machines and dismantle the state’s popular vote-by-mail system, one proposal would require photo identification if you’re voting in person and an affidavit with birth date and driver’s license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number if you’re voting by mail. (Currently, to vote in person, a resident needs two pieces of documentation with name and address, like a phone bill or a vehicle registration.)

Temporary workers verifying and separating early votes that were mailed in at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office in Phoenix during the primary election in August.Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Critics say efforts like these do not make the vote more secure and instead just create more hurdles.

A similar debate is happening in Michigan, as voters consider an initiative, called Proposal 2, that would allow for nine days of early voting (the state currently has no polls open for that) and increase access to voting by absentee ballot.

“We must create a voting system that provides secure options for voters, equitable access to the polls and ensures all our voices are heard when it comes time to vote,” Khalilah Spencer, president of Promote the Vote, a group backing the effort, said as the campaign for Proposal 2 began this year.

But Secure MI Vote, an opposing group, said, “If Proposal 2 wins in November, elections will not be secure ever again.”

An initiative in Ohio is aimed at thwarting any attempt to allow people who are not United States citizens from voting in local elections. It is meant to counter efforts elsewhere, including New York City, to allow permanent legal residents and people authorized to work in the United States to vote in city-level races. A similar proposal is up for a vote in Louisiana on a Dec. 10 ballot.

Other measures offer an opportunity to take the nation’s temperature on an array of other contentious issues.

Several states, including California, Kentucky, Michigan and Vermont, have measures that will either protect or curtail abortion access.

North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Maryland have ballot measures on legalizing marijuana. In Colorado, which was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, voters are deciding whether to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms and allow for restricted access to people who are 21 and older. (Oregon is the only other state that has moved to widely legalize psychedelics.)

Michigan is among the states where voters will decide on measures that will either protect or curtail abortion access. Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

In Iowa, an initiative proposes enshrining gun rights in an amendment to the state constitution that declares that residents’ ability “to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Oregon, however, could become one of the states with the tightest restrictions on guns as voters weigh a measure that would require people trying to obtain a permit to pass a background check, submit fingerprints, pay a fee and enroll in a safety course. Supporters argue that the measure could save lives by curtailing gun violence, but opponents contend that the proposal would not limit the effect of illegal firearms.

How we get live results on election night. We report vote totals provided by The Associated Press, which collects results from states, counties and townships through a network of websites and more than 4,000 on-the-ground correspondents. To estimate how many votes remain to be counted, our team of data journalists and software engineers gathers vote tallies directly from the websites of election officials and compares these with our turnout expectations.

Five states — Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont — also have proposals on the ballot that would forbid slavery or involuntary servitude as a punishment for people who are convicted of crimes. (Similar measures were passed in Colorado in 2018 and Nebraska and Utah in 2020.)

If it becomes banned, prisoners could challenge the practice of forced labor for which they are paid pennies per hour, if anything at all. A report published this year by the American Civil Liberties Union found that prisoners produced more than $2 billion in goods per year and provided more than $9 billion worth of services while being paid an average of 13 cents to 52 cents per hour.

Alaska, Missouri and New Hampshire will also ask on ballots this year if residents want to convene a convention to revise or amend their state constitution — a question automatically posed to residents at regular intervals, typically every 10 or 20 years, depending on the state.

More broadly, many states are considering initiatives not just about access to the polls but the process by which elections are conducted.

Nevada voters will decide whether to shift the state to a system of open primaries in which the five highest performing candidates advance to the general election, regardless of party.

In Arkansas, there is a ballot initiative on ballot initiatives. The question before voters is to raise the requirement for statewide ballot initiatives to pass to 60 percent of the votes cast from a simple majority.

Campaigns to mandate a supermajority have been pursued around the country in recent years — and indeed for as long as ballot initiatives like these have existed — as whichever party is in power sees them as a tool that can be used to undermine its influence. “It cuts across partisanship because it’s really about who controls state government,” said Daniel Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida.

Comparable measures have had mixed results at the polls. In June, a proposal to require 60 percent support to pass a statewide initiative went on the ballot in South Dakota; 67 percent of voters said no.

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