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November Is Coming – Over 150 Initiatives On State Ballots November 6th

Ballot Initiatives

By Michael Green, Manager, State Government Relations, Food Marketing Institute

In one form or another, ballot measures have been with us since the colonial era, when residents of New England towns voted directly on ordinances at town meetings. In the early years of the Republic, several states even adopted their state constitutions by voter referendum. 

In 1898, however, South Dakota took things a step further. The state amended its constitution to provide for an initiative process for enacting legislation. This action for the first time established a framework for citizens to bypass their state legislatures in adopting laws. South Dakota’s experiment in direct democracy caught fire over the intervening century. By 1998 – the highwater mark for ballot initiatives – 274 measures appeared on state ballots across the country. 

Although the sheer volume of initiatives has declined since then, this November, voters in 38 states will consider over 150 initiatives, referendums or other measures on their state ballots. And many of these will directly impact the food retail industry. As in years past, to assist our members in navigating this flood of ballot activity, FMI has compiled the Ballot Measure Guide for the Grocery Industry: 2018 Edition. The Guide highlights 53 measures in 23 states of particular importance to the food retail industry. For instance, this year, as always, taxes are a hot topic. Two states that grocers should be watching closely on that front are Oregon and Washington. Both states will consider ballot measures to prohibit taxation of groceries. Oregon Measure 103 would prohibit both state and local governments from taxing the sale of groceries, while Washington Initiative Measure 1634 would prohibit only local governments from imposing such taxes.  

By far the most popular topic for ballot questions this year is election policy. According to Ballotpedia, there are 20 measures in 19 states relating to redistricting, ballot access, and/or campaign finance and ethics. Also noteworthy this year for its relative absence as an issue is minimum wage. Only two states in 2018 are considering ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage: Arkansas and Missouri.  (Check out a recent FMI State Issues Report for a look at the out-of-state money being spent on those campaigns.) Indeed, voters in Flagstaff, Arizona, will be considering a measure to lower the city’s minimum wage, to bring it in line with the statewide rate.

For more information on all these measures and more, check out the FMI Ballot Measure Guide to Grocery Industry: 2018 Edition.  Of course, your opinion on these measures won’t matter if you can’t vote. So also be sure to head over to FMI’s Voting Resources page to register to vote, check your polling place and find all sorts of helpful information for election day. See you in November. 

Photo Credit: Danny Howard, 2012, Flickr