Don’t Ignore #Election2015

Key issues are at stake in tomorrow’s election.

Key Issues Are At Stake In Tomorrow’s Election

Despite the fact that the 2016 presidential election is over a year away, it has already dominated the news cycle, leaving little room for any discussion of Election Day in 2015. Tomorrow, however, voters across the country will have the opportunity to cast their ballot in a number of critical contests that will impact the status of key progressive issues – and the ultimate health of their state’s democracy. This election is too important to let it pass by unnoticed. Here are some of the key issues in tomorrow’s election:

  • State leadership elections that will determine the future of state policy. In Mississippi and Kentucky, voters will elect their governor and other state constitutional officers. Also in Mississippi, as well as in New Jersey, Virginia, and several states with special elections, voters will cast a ballot for their state legislators. And in Pennsylvania, control of the state Supreme Court is up for grabs, with a record $11 million already spent in those races. Additionally, hundreds of cities, counties, and school boards are holding local elections. Tomorrow’s outcome is critical for future policy in these states on issues like Medicaid expansion and common-sense gun reform. For example, the state legislature election in Virginia may determine whether up to 400,000 currently uninsured working Virginians will receive health insurance by closing the coverage gap.
  • Ballot initiatives that impact progressive issues. A number of key state and local ballot measures will be decided tomorrow. In Houston, for instance, the HERO ordinance would explicitly ban housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In Mississippi, Initiative 42 will require the state to support an “adequate and efficient system of free public schools,” ensuring well-paid teachers, safe classrooms, and enough textbooks for students to learn.
  • Ballot initiatives that impact #HealthyDemocracy. Voters in three jurisdictions will directly weigh in on how their elections function to protect a healthy democracy, one that represents the voices of everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected. In Ohio, Issue 1 will create a bipartisan redistricting commission to end statehouse gerrymandering. And, on opposite coasts, voters will cast a ballot to fight big money in elections: Issue 1 in Maine and Initiative I-122 in Seattle, if passed, will stem the flood of big money in the political system. Ballot initiatives like these are of particular importance in today’s post-Citizens United era. In fact, CAP Action’s recent Health of State Democracies report notes the influence of money is a particular weak spot for all states. And 78 percent of Americans want something to be done about big money in the political system.

Though the stakes are high in tomorrow’s election, it still is not getting the attention it deserves. And that’s a problem. Too many of the states with elections tomorrow have significant barriers to the voting booth – and, without the national spotlight a presidential race brings, there is ample opportunity for voters’ voices to be suppressed tomorrow. In CAP Action’s Health of State Democracies report, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia all received an “F” grade for Accessibility of the Ballot; New Jersey received a “D+,” Washington received a “C;” and even Maine, the highest-ranked state overall, received only a B for ballot access. We must watch carefully to ensure nobody puts a thumb on the scale of electoral outcomes in the face of these critical contests across the country tomorrow.

BOTTOM LINE: Though 2016 may be dominating news coverage, every election matters and impacts the lives of people in communities across the country. Tomorrow, voters will go to the polls to make their voices heard in state legislature elections and on key ballot initiatives. It’s up to all of us to do our civic duty and ensure that nobody is able to exploit the poor ballot accessibility in many of these states to achieve their outcome of choice over the will over the voters.

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