Abortion, Marijuana, Slavery: 11 Themes to 2022’s Ballot Measures

Ballot measures related to abortion, marijuana, and slavery are among a diverse array of issues voters in 37 states will see at the polls this fall.

Taxes, infrastructure bonds, crime, minimum wage, elections, and the structure of state government are also among common themes on Nov. 8 ballots nationwide.

An expected flurry of measures related to sports betting and ranked voting failed to qualify for midterm elections, and there are relatively few related to firearms and Medicaid expansion, which have been common ballot issues in the last decade.

Five abortion-related measures, five seeking to legalize recreational marijuana, and four formally banning slavery as punishment are among 129 proposed constitutional amendments to be decided on Nov. 8.

Voters in four states have already cast ballots on five proposals in 2022, with Louisianans to see three in a Dec. 10 special election.

Of the 37 states with proposals on Nov. 8 ballots, voters in 14 will see at least four.

Alabama’s and Colorado’s ballots both have 11 proposals, while 10 will go before Arizonans. Eight proposals are on tap in Louisiana—with the three extra set for December—and seven are certified for the polls in California.

Iowans will see a “Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment,” Californians a proposed “flavored tobacco products ban,” Alabamans a “Broadband Internet Infrastructure Funding Amendment,” and Nevadans a request to become the third state to adopt a total “Top-Five Ranked Choice Voting” system.

South Dakotans will see a proposed Medicaid expansion initiative, Oregon voters a “Right to Healthcare Amendment,” and Massachusetts residents asked if they want to “remove proof of citizenship or immigration status” when applying for a driver’s license.

Here is a roundup of 11 prominent Nov. 8 ballot measure themes:

Abortion

Voters in six states will see abortion-related measures on their 2022 ballots, with Kansans on Aug. 2 rejecting a proposal to remove abortion access as a right from their state constitution.

On Nov. 8, abortion will be on the ballot in five states, with California, Vermont, and Michigan voters seeing proposals to enshrine abortion access, and those in Montana and Kentucky seeing proposals to curb it. 

The Michigan and Kentucky measures will be the most-watched.

The proposed “Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom” measure would create a state constitutional right to “make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to … contraception, sterilization, abortion care.”

Kentucky’s “Yes For Life” Amendment 2 asks voters to vote “yes” or “no” to a proposed amendment that states: “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Marijuana Legalization

If voters in five states—Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota—legalize adult recreational use on Nov. 8, marijuana will be legal in nearly half of the 50 states.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), adult use of marijuana is now legal in 19 states. There are 37 states with legal medical marijuana programs, the NCSL documents.

New Hampshire became the 19th state to legalize marijuana when lawmakers adopted a 2022 bill allowing cannabis use by those aged 21 and over. 

Legalization ballot measures are planned for Mississippi in 2023 and two are collecting signatures for Wyoming’s 2024 ballot.

Earlier this year, as many as 15 legalization proposals across nine states were vying for the ballot, including as many as five in Arkansas. 

In Colorado, where voters approved recreational marijuana in 2000, voters will now vote on Proposition 122, a “Decriminalization and Regulated Access Program for Certain Psychedelic Plants and Fungi Initiative.”

Slavery Bans

Slavery may be banned under the U.S. Constitution but apparently not in some state constitutions.

To clear that up, voters in Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont will be asked to remove “involuntary servitude” (Louisiana) and “slavery” (Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont) as “punishment for a crime” in their constitutions.

Crime

Alabama’s Amendment 1 and Ohio’s Issue 1 both propose tightening bail requirements. Missouri’s Amendment 4 would allow the state Legislature to require that cities increase police funding “without state reimbursement.”

Taxes

Among varied proposals, three Louisiana and two Georgia measures seek property tax exemptions for the elderly, disabled, and veterans, for timber equipment, and in disaster areas. 

Idaho voters will see proposed income and corporate tax changes, and in Colorado, two proposed income tax reductions are on the ballot including Proposition 121: the “State Income Tax Rate Reduction Initiative.”

California’s Proposition 30 would impose a tax on income above $2 million for a “Zero-Emissions Vehicles and Wildfire Prevention Initiative,” while Massachusetts’ Question 1 asks voters to approve a tax on income above $1 million for education and transportation improvements.

Arizona’s Proposition 132 seeks to require a 60-percent supermajority to approve any ballot measure that increases taxes.

Minimum Wage

Nebraska and Nevada voters will see proposed constitutional amendments addressing minimum wages.

The Nebraska Initiative 433 would increase the state’s current $9 an hour minimum wage to $15 by Jan. 1, 2026. Nevada’s Question 2 would increase the state’s current $9.50 an hour to $12 by July 1, 2024.

In Illinois, voters will see Amendment 1, a “Right to Collective Bargaining Measure,” while voters in Tennessee a “Right-to-Work Amendment” is on the ballot.

Elections and Campaign Finance

Seven measures across six states address elections and campaign funding.

Michigan’s Proposal 2, the “Right to Voting Policies Amendment,” would reduce the requirements for legal voting, and Connecticut’s proposed “Allow for Early Voting Amendment’ would do what it says, if approved.

There are three elections integrity measures on tap: Arizona’s Proposition 309, the “Voter Identification Requirements for Mail-In Ballots and In-Person Voting Measure;” Nebraska’s Initiative 432, the “Photo Voter Identification Initiative;” and Ohio’s Issue 2, a “Citizenship Voting Requirement Amendment.”

Petition Rules

Voters in three states will see four proposals seeking to impose restrictions on the citizen initiative process.

Arkansas’s Issue 2 would require a 60-percent supermajority to adopt ballot measures, Colorado’s Proposition GG would require “income tax effects” be included in initiative analyses, and Arizona’s propositions 128 and 129 would tighten language and title requirements.

State Constitutional Conventions

Voters in three states will be asked if they want to appoint delegates to a convention to revise and amend their state’s Constitution. 

They are among 14 states where the state’s Constitution mandates the measure be presented to voters at stipulated intervals. In Alaska and New Hampshire, the “Constitutional Convention Question” must be asked every 10 years; in Missouri, every 20 years.

State Government

Arizona voters will decide if they want to create a lieutenant governor office. In Arkansas and Idaho, proposals would allow the state legislature to call special sessions without the governor’s assent.

Michigan and North Dakota voters will be asked if they want to impose term limits on state lawmakers and, in North Dakota, the governor. A measure tightening residency requirements for state legislators is on Maryland’s ballot.

Sports Betting

According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), 33 states have legalized sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the authority to regulate such wagering in 2018.

With the boom in online and mobile betting, sports gaming revenue topped $4.3 billion in 2021, the AGA reports. Goldman Sachs projects the market will top $40 billion a year in the United States by 2033.

California voters will see two proposed constitutional amendments seeking to legalize sports wagering with tax revenues to address homelessness and mental illness. 

The “Tribal Sports Wagering Act” is sponsored by a 40-tribe coalition that spent about $25 million promoting the policy, and the “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act” is backed by seven sportsbooks, including FanDuel and DraftKings, which staked the campaign to $100 million. 

Gaming in Californian tribal casinos has been legal for more than 20 years, while gambling at horse tracks has been legal since the 1930s. But online and mobile sports betting—an estimated $3 billion annual market—is illegal in California.

Florida voters, meanwhile, won’t see a measure related to gaming or sports wagering on their ballot, at least not in 2024, until numerous lawsuits are resolved.

Florida lawmakers legalized sports betting when they approved a 30-year gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida in May 2021. 

In exchange for at least $500 million a year, the pact gives the Seminoles’ Hard Rock Digital platform exclusive control of blackjack, craps, fantasy, and sports betting at its seven casinos and on non-tribal pari-mutuels.

The Seminoles launched the site in late 2021 but it has been off-line most of 2022 because of lawsuits.

Meanwhile, several prospective constitutional amendments related to gaming vied for Florida’s 2022 ballot, including one asking voters to approve non-Seminole casinos and one sponsored by a committee supported by DraftKings and FanDuel to legalize sports gaming beyond Seminole casinos.

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John Haughey has been a working journalist since 1978 with an extensive background in local government, state legislatures, and growth and development. A graduate of the University of Wyoming, he is a Navy veteran who fought fires at sea during three deployments aboard USS Constellation. He’s been a reporter for daily newspapers in California, Washington, Wyoming, New York, and Florida; a staff writer for Manhattan-based business trade publications.

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