Abortion, Pot, Slavery, and More: 34 Ballot Initiatives We’re Watching Today
Happy Election Day…I guess. There aren’t many candidates competing today about which a libertarian could get excited. But there are a few Election 2022 ballot measures that set our hearts aflutter—and a few others we’re anxiously watching in hopes that they fail. So, let’s dig in. The list below—by no means comprehensive—offers a glimpse at some of the especially good and especially bad ballot measures on Reason‘s radar.
Marijuana legalization measures are on the ballot in five states—Arkansas (Issue 4), Maryland (Question 4), Missouri (Amendment 3), North Dakota (Measure 2), and South Dakota (Measure 27). Jacob Sullum offers a rundown of these recreational weed initiatives here (Sullum’s post also details an Oklahoma initiative that ultimately failed to get on the ballot), while the Cato at Liberty blog hones in on the tax structures contained in each.
One state—Colorado—will vote on whether to decriminalize psychedelics. If Proposition 122 passes, Colorado will remove criminal penalties for noncommercial activity related to “natural medicine,” which it defines to include the psychoactive components in shrooms as well as dimethyltryptamine (DMT, which is the active ingredient in ayahuasca), mescaline (which the active ingredient in peyote), and ibogaine (derived from the iboga tree bark). More on Proposition 122 here.
Abortion-related initiatives are on the ballot in five states—California (Proposition 1), Kentucky (Amendment 2), Michigan (Proposal 3), Montana (LR-131), and Vermont (Proposal 5). Passage of the California, Michigan, or Vermont proposals would expand reproductive freedom; passage of the Kentucky proposal would restrict it. The Montana proposal is a weird one.
Proposition 1 would amend California’s constitution to include a right to reproductive freedom, defined to include the “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”
Proposal 3 would amend Michigan’s constitution to include a right to reproductive freedom, defined as “the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.”
Proposal 5 would amend Vermont’s constitution to state “that an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”
Amendment 2 would amend Kentucky’s constitution to state that “nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
LR-131 would state that in Montana, “infants born alive, including infants born alive after an abortion, are legal persons; requiring health care providers to take necessary actions to preserve the life of a born-alive infant; providing a penalty.” Violators of the law could face up to 20 years in prison. The measure is set up to seem like common sense—of course an infant, once born, is a legal person—and supporters portray detractors as barbarians who want to abort babies after birth. But detractors—including the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and the Montana Medical Association—say the bill is unnecessary (“Montana law already recognizes the responsibility of medical providers to care for viable infants outside of the womb,” point out Nancy Maxson and Nancy Leifer, co-presidents of the League of Women Voters Missoula), and infringes upon the physician’s judgement. For instance, it would require doctors to take all medical steps possible to prolong the life of an infant who is in severe pain and cannot live on its own outside the womb rather than simply provide palliative care.
nanny state vs. free markets
Flavored tobacco and online sports betting are up for a vote in California, while Coloradoans will vote on alcohol delivery services.
California Proposition 31 would uphold a ban on flavored tobacco products, including flavored vaping products. The ban was passed via Senate Bill 793 (SB 793). If Proposition 31 passes, SB 793 will be upheld; if it fails, it will be repealed. Essentially, California voters will have the “chance to override lawmakers trying to control their personal choices,” as Reason‘s Scott Shackford wrote about it. (See also: “California’s Anti-Vaping Ballot Question Isn’t About ‘Protecting Children.'”)
Proposition 27 would legalize online sports betting and Proposition 26 would legalize sports betting at Native American casinos and at licensed racetracks. But “in the style of California politics, it’s all a gigantic, expensive mess of competing interests,” notes Shackford, who offers more details on both initiatives.
Proposition 126 in Colorado would make permanent a pandemic allowance for alcohol delivery services for restaurants to sell takeout alcoholic beverages.
Bail reform is on the ballot in Alabama (Amendment 1) and Ohio (Issue 1). But neither measure’s passage would result in bail being more flexible or more fair.
Amendment 1 in Alabama—also known as “Aniah’s Law—would stipulate 13 felony offenses for which judges could completely deny bail. Currently, the Alabama constitution states “that all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses”—so, bail can be set high, but it generally must still exist. The new law would let judges deny bail for a much wider variety of people accused of crimes—and lead to a lot more innocent people being imprisoned. “We could have individuals stuck in jail for years at a time and ultimately not found guilty,” Jerome Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center told AL.com. “They are innocent the day they are charged but still could be in jail for months and years.”
Giving the government the authority to hold you indefinitely before trial is a bad idea. It’s a power that will be abused. A lot. And this is coming from one of the people who will have that power.
— Judge David Carpenter (@DavidOCarpenter) November 3, 2022
Issue 1 in Ohio would take away the state Supreme Court’s power to shape bail considerations and hand that power to the state legislature. It comes in response to the Ohio Supreme C
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