In states from California to Maryland, citizens going to the polls in November will use ballot measures to weigh in on such issues as expanding Medicaid, legalizing medical marijuana and reforming the rules governing voting. Ballot initiatives are the most direct way Americans can tell their elected leaders what they want them to do and also can help shape national policy.
Not all Americans can initiate ballot measures. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 26 states allow citizen-generated questions. But legislatures in every state have the power to put an initiative up for a vote.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states can decide whether to make more people eligible for Medicaid, the federal-state medical insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans. Seventeen states have not expanded the program.
This fall, Medicaid expansion will be on the ballot in Utah and Idaho, and voters in Montana will decide whether to increase its tobacco tax to fund a continuation of that state’s Medicaid expansion beyond 2019, when it is set to expire. In Nebraska, supporters of expanding Medicaid have submitted enough signatures, but the secretary of state has until Sept. 14 to certify that ballot measure.
In June, voters approved a ballot measure that made Oklahoma the 30th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Voters in Utah will have their say on medical marijuana this fall. And medical marijuana questions are expected to be on the Missouri ballot in November, but which ones are still being debated in the courts. Legalizing marijuana for all uses will be on the ballot in Michigan in November.
“Marijuana is a perfect example of public opinion changing law ,” says Patrick Potyondy, a legislative policy specialist at the NCSL. “Elected politicians are probably not going to touch that with a 30-foot pole, but through a ballot initiative folks are able to start getting the law changed.”