Spotlight Exclusives

A Guide to Midterm Ballot Measures and Initiatives in 37 States

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

On Nov. 8, voters in 37 states will get to vote on 132 statewide ballot measures, a number of which impact economic opportunity issues such as Medicaid expansion and raising the minimum wage.

Some of the key ballot initiatives to watch in the poverty and opportunity space:

Medicaid expansion: Twelve states have not expanded Medicaid since the Affordable Care Act increased how many low-income Americans could qualify. In South Dakota, voters will vote on an initiative that would extend coverage to over 40,000 people in the state, raising the income cutoff from $10,590 a year to about $32,000.

In other health care-related measures, Oregon’s Measure 111 would add language to the state constitution to “ensure” that every resident “has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.” The initiative would make Oregon the first state to enshrine health care as a fundamental right, but it doesn’t define “cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care” or specify how such care would be provided or paid for.

In Arizona,  Proposition 209, would limit the interest rates for health care-related debt and would shield some personal holdings from debt collection.

Minimum wage: While Congress hasn’t raised the federal minimum wage since 2009, voters in Nevada and Nebraska will vote on minimum wage hikes in their states. The Nevada measure would raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2024, while the Nebraska initiative would increase it to $15 by 2026.

In Washington, D.C., voters again will weigh in on a measure to increase the minimum wage of tipped employees to the same level as non-tipped employees in 2027.

Free school lunches: In Colorado, voters will weigh a proposition to create a program that would offer free meals to all public-school students and help schools pay for them. Taxpayers making more than $300,0000 would pay more taxes so that school districts could opt in to serve meals for free to all students. Districts would have to participate in some federal programs first to get as many federal dollars as possible, but the state would cover all costs the federal programs don’t. The measure would also fund pay increases for frontline school cafeteria workers, helping schools dealing with staff shortages.

Early childhood education: New Mexico voters will decide on a ballot measure that would make the state the first in the country to guarantee a constitutional right to early childhood education. The measure would authorize lawmakers to draw new money from a state sovereign wealth fund to provide dedicated funding for universal preschool and child care, and to support home-visiting programs for new parents.

Slavery provisions: Voters in states where slavery or involuntary servitude remains legal as a punishment for people who are convicted of crimes—Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont— will vote next month on whether to ban the practices outright.

One practical result of passage could be to open avenues for incarcerated persons in those states to challenge forced prison labor.

Free tuition for undocumented students: A proposition on the Arizona ballot would guarantee in-state college tuition to undocumented students. The ballot measure would allow all students who attended high school in the state for at least two years to qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid regardless of legal status, repealing a proposition that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2006. The status quo requires undocumented students to pay three times as much as legal in-state residents to attend Arizona colleges and universities.

Broadband access: Alabama is considering an amendment to allow state and local governments to provide federal and state-designated broadband funds to public and private companies seeking to expand broadband infrastructure, requiring only a public meeting by the locality to determine funding decisions.

Property tax relief for disabled homeowners: A few states are considering providing exemptions and changes to the tax structure for people living with permanent disabilities and disabled veterans. Arizona’s Proposition 130 would set property tax exemption amounts and qualifications to be considered an exempted category, such as widow(er)s, people with permanent disabilities, and disabled veterans.

The state of Louisiana has two amendments up for the vote – Amendment 2 would provide a minimum exemption of $10,000 and up to a full exemption of homestead property tax for disabled veterans and their spouses, depending on their level of disability, while Amendment 8 would remove the requirement of permanently disabled homeowners to annually recertify for tax exemptions.


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