Progressive Guide to 2012 State Ballot Initiatives – Part 1 of 2

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

While re-electing President Obama should be the top priority for progressives throughout the country this fall, we must also remember that there are many important candidates and issues that will be found further down the ballot on November 6.  One of the most important categories of down-ballot issues is ballot initiatives, which provide voters the opportunity to have a direct say on major policy matters.

This year, states have a plethora of ballot initiatives pending for a vote in November.  Below is Part 1 of our two-part guide to the initiatives of biggest importance to progressives this fall, along with links for how to get involved in supporting the progressive position on each initiative.  Here in Part 1, we will address ballot initiatives regarding marriage equality, reproductive freedom, criminal justice, estate taxes, and death with dignity.  In Part 2, we will highlight initiatives regarding worker’s rights, government, and education.

If you live in a state with one of the ballot initiatives, please get involved by speaking with your family, friends, and colleagues; by volunteering; and by writing a letter to your local newspaper editor.  If you live out-of-state, please contribute what you can to support the efforts of the progressive organizations who are working on these initiatives.

Marriage Equality

2011 was a banner year for advancing the cause of LGBT equality. However, the issue of marriage equality has yet to win majority support any time when it has been placed on the ballot.  We have a great opportunity to change that track record this November in Washington State, Minnesota, Maine, and Maryland.

Washington Referendum 74vote Yes to uphold the state legislature’s approval of marriage equality

* Washington United for Marriage  * Contribute  * Volunteer  * Facebook page  * Washington newspaper links

Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage Initiativevote No on constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality

* Minnesotans United for All Families  * Contribute  * Volunteer  * Facebook Page    * Minnesota newspaper links

Maine Same-Sex Marriage Questionvote Yes on 1 to repeal Maine’s ban on marriage equality

* Mainers United for Marriage  * Contribute   * Volunteer  * Facebook Page   *Maine newspaper links

Maryland Question 6 - vote Yes to uphold the state legislature’s approval of marriage equality

* Marylanders for Marriage Equality  * Contribute  * Volunteer  *Facebook Page  * Maryland newspaper links


Estate Tax

Oregon Measure 84 – vote No on this proposal that would eliminate Oregon’s estate tax, which applies to estates valued at greater than $1 million.  As we’ve explained previously, the estate tax is the fairest and most meritocratic kind of tax there is. For more on why Oregon’s estate tax is good for that state, check out this fact sheet from Tax Fairness Oregon. And then send a letter to your local Oregon newspaper urging people to vote No on Measure 84.

Reproductive Freedom

Florida Amendment 6 – vote No on this proposal, which would prevent state courts from reading the Florida Constitution’s right to privacy to provide any rights to choice that are broader than provided under the federal Constitution, and forbids the use of any state funds for abortion except as required by federal law (i.e., in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother).

* Vote No On 6   * Contribute   * Volunteer    * Facebook Page    * Florida Newspapers


Criminal Justice

California Proposition 34 – vote Yes to help California become the 16th state to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole.  As we’ve explained previously, the death penalty is barbaric, ineffective, biased, and costly.  The evidence shows that the death penalty costs taxpayers more than life in prison without parole,  does not deter violent crime, and is marred by significant racial bias and far too frequent ineffective legal representation for those who are charged with capital crimes.

* Yes on 34     * Contribute     * Volunteer    *Facebook Page

California Proposition 36 – vote Yes to reform California’s three-strike law.  Under the current three-strikes law, individuals who have been convicted of two previous “serious or violent” crimes automatically receive a sentence of life in prison if they are convicted of a third crime, even if that third crime is non-violent.  Proposition 36 would reform the law by requiring life in prison only if the third crime is “serious or violent,” thereby saving the state approximately $70 – $100 million per year due to reduced prison populations.

* Committee for Three Strikes Reform   * Contribute   * Volunteer   *Facebook Page

Civil Liberties

Massachusetts Death With Dignity Initiative  - vote Yes on Question 2 to make Massachusetts the third state that allows terminally ill patients to choose to end their lives with dignity.  As we’ve explained previously, our current system that forecloses death with dignity in all but two states is simply unbearable for far too many people facing terminal illness.  One way to help reduce or alleviate these painful situations is to allow a terminally ill individual to get medical assistance in hastening their death, but only through a highly regulated system that includes multiple doctor sign offs, waiting periods, and other precautions to ensure that sick people are not being pressured into assisted suicide.  The Massachusetts ballot initiative would do exactly that, thereby allowing Massachusetts to join Oregon and Washington State in authorizing death with dignity.

* Dignity 2012    * Contribute   * Volunteer   * Facebook Page   * Massachusetts Newspapers

Voting Rights

Minnesota Voter Identification Amendment – vote No on the proposal in Minnesota to require individuals to obtain and present photo identification in order to be able to exercise their right to vote.  Supporters of the voter ID proposal pretend to be responding to rampant voter fraud, but a five-year long investigation by the Department of Justice under President W. Bush found “virtually no evidence of any organized effort” to fraudulently impact federal elections and other analyses have similarly found no evidence of fraud.  What the proposal, which would continue conservative efforts to restrict the voting rights of as many as 758,000 eligible voters, is actually designed to do is to make it as difficult as possible for Democratic-leaning groups to vote.

* Our Vote Our Future  * Contribute   * Volunteer   * Facebook Page  * Minnesota Newspapers

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have reports on the battle between nuns and the Vatican over the meaning of Catholicism, how to improve elections through better ballot design, the failures of for-profit colleges, private prison companies pushing for laws that increase and lengthen prison sentences, and how a small wealthy elite are trying to use SuperPACs to buy our democracy.


American Sisters Haven’t Strayed.  The Vatican Has – an argument that it is the increasingly conservative aging bishops in the Vatican who are straying from Catholic teachings far more than American nuns who are fighting for social justice have.

Better Design, Better Elections - a report from the Brennan Center for Justice on how better design of ballots, voter instructions, and voting machines could help reduce the nearly 400,000 votes that were discarded in the 2008 and 2010 elections combined due to technical errors.

For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success – the report on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions’ two year investigation into for-profit colleges, and how they are shortchanging their students even as they received nearly $32 billion in federal aid in 2011.

Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies – a report on how private, for-profit prison companies are using campaign contributions and millions of dollars in lobbying to support policies that will lead to more and longer prison sentences and, therefore, more profit for private prison companies.

Million-Dollar Megaphones: SuperPACs and Unlimited Outside Spending in the 2012 Elections – an in-depth look at the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of secret outside cash is being funneled by a small number of obscenely wealthy people through SuperPACs in an attempt to buy our democracy.


Weekend Reading List

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles on protecting Vermont’s fledgling single payer health insurance system, how progressives can move politics, a debunking of conservative myths about “voter fraud,” how for-profit corporations are making a fortune detaining undocumented immigrants, and the differences in President Obama and Mitt Romney’s plans for the Bush tax cuts.


Can Vermonters Win Single Payer? – a report on how corporate interests are working to undermine support for Green Mountain Care, Vermont’s single payer health insurance system that was passed last year but will not take effect for five or six years.   For our previous coverage of Green Mountain Care, see this post.

Progressive Action Can Move the Candidates – an essay arguing that progressive action both within and outside of the electoral system can and already has moved our politics on issues such as economic inequality and immigration

The Voter Fraud Myth Debunked – A good debunking of some of the most popular false stories about voter fraud being peddled by conservatives across the country.

Private Prisons Profit From Immigration Crackdown – a report on how privately owned prison companies now own nearly half of the cells that immigrant detainees are sent to, which means that the industry is profiting heavily off of the GOP’s misguided objection to immigration.

U.S. Taxpayers and the Bush Tax Cuts – details regarding how various groups would fare under the GOP plan versus Obama’s plan for dealing with the impending expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have an analysis of conservative efforts to use school textbooks to indoctrinate children in conservative fantasies, President Obama’s recent economic speech in Ohio, and historical overview that the Founding Fathers did not found the US as a “Christian Nation,” a report about the expense of housing more than 125,000 elderly prisons in prisons in the US, and a call from former-Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold to reverse Citizens United.


How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us - The story of how, given the large grade school student population in Texas, that state’s standards for school textbooks are typically followed by other states,  and of how conservatives have actively worked to take over the Texas Board of Education, which decides the state’s standards, so they can promote their right-wing agenda in our nation’s school textbooks.

Remarks by the President on the Economy – the transcript of President Obama’s campaign speech last week in Ohio in which the President laid out in detail his support for progressive economic policies, and explained how Mitt Romney is offering nothing more than a repeat of the failed policies of George W. Bush.

The Truth About Religion in America - an historical overview of how the Founders did not establish the US as a “Christian Nation” or base the country on “Christian values.”

At America’s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly – a report on the rapid rise in the number of people in prison in the US who are over the age of 55, from 8,853 in 1981 to 124,900 today, largely because of the implementation of harsh sentencing laws in the 1980s and 1990s.  Each such prisoner costs $68,270 per year to house (double that spent per prisoner under the age of 50), and continues to be held even though recidivism rates are very low for the elderly.

The Money Crisis - an essay from former Senator Russ Feingold explaining how Citizens United has corrupted our political system and how a pending case regarding a Montana state ban on corporate financing of campaigns gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to fix some of the damage done by the misguided Citizens United decision.

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles on the role we all must play in achieving progressive change, lessons to learn from the Wisconsin recall, how the media is aiding conservative efforts to destroy community colleges, state efforts to reduce rates of imprisonment, the disastrous impacts of federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and how far off the tracks today’s GOP has gone.


Creating Change is the People’s Job – A good overview of how, if we want to create a society governed by progressive values and policies, we progressives — not just the president — have to be the agents of change in our society.

7 Lessons Democrats and Progressives Should Learn From Wisconsin – How the Wisconsin recall election, despite not being successful in ending Scott Walker’s reactionary reign, shows the value of grassroots organizing, focus, and voting.

The Washington Post, PBS, and the Koch-Funded American Enterprise Institute Attack Community Colleges – how the Washington Post and PBS Newshour have interests in private, for-profit colleges and, at the same time, are aiding right-wing organizations in trying to undermine our nation’s system of community colleges.

States Take Sizeable Steps in 2012 to End Overincarceration – An encouraging overview of efforts in seventeen different states throughout the country that have taken steps this years to begin reducing their astronomical prison rates.

U.S. v. Jamel Dossie - an interesting federal district court decision explaining how federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws have created an unjust system marked by unnecessarily harsh prison sentences, the undermining of due process rights, and the exclusion of promising alternatives to incarceration.

The Truth About American Politics – an overview of three new books documenting how extremist today’s Republican Party has become and how that extremism is destroying our political system.



Weekend Reading List

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have an in-depth investigation showing that Texas almost certainly executed an innocent person, a report on how a stable middle class encourages economic growth, an article uncovering other organizations promoting corporate conservative state legislation, how Mitt “Severe Conservative” Romney is a servant of the right wing, and how profit-making has led Louisiana to have the highest incarceration rate in the world.


Yes, America, We Have Executed an Innocent Man – an article about the Columbia Human Rights Law Review’s 436-page article Los Tocayos Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution which demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that Texas executed an innocent man, Carlos DeLuna, in 1989 for a murder that he did not commit.  The book and all of its supporting documentation are available online at

The American Middle Class, Income Inequality, and the Strength of Our Economy – a report by the Center for American Progress about the latest economic research demonstrating that a strong middle class is critical to economic growth, while inequality tends to undermine growth.

Mitt Romney, Servant of the Right – an essay arguing that Romney, were he to become President, would not govern as a moderate and instead would do the bidding of the right wing.   Winning Progressive has been making a similar argument, and we have started a new page of questions for Romney about the extreme views of the advisers and organizations that Romney is surrounding himself with.

Louisiana is the World’s Prison Capital – an in-depth assessment of how Louisiana’s system of for-profit prisons and local sheriffs who profit off of them have created an incarceration rate in Louisiana that is twice that of the US as a whole, triple the rate in Russia, and five times higher than the rate in Iran.

Uncovering the Other ALECs – a look at how state government “trade associations” such as the Council of State Governments and the National Conference of State Legislatures work to promote a corporate conservative legislative agenda on issues like school privatization, fracking, tort reform, and other issues