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Voters in many states to decide on marijuana, abortion, minimum wage

Oct. 16 (UPI) — From marijuana in the Midwest to abortion and minimum wage in the South, voters across the United States have more than just hotly contested congressional races to consider in next month’s midterm election.

Dozens of policies will be up for consideration, including those on crime victims’ rights, restrictions on taxes and fossil fuel and renewable energy. Some issues, though are on the ballot in multiple states and could — like in the case of medical and recreational marijuana — indicate a nationwide trend.

Here are some of the highlights.

Marijuana

Marijuana is up for consideration in four states — Michigan, North Dakota, Missouri and Utah. The first two initiatives, if passed, would legalize recreational marijuana, joining nine other states and Washington, D.C.

Voters in Michigan, which already allows medical marijuana, will decide whether to allow the possession and sale of up to 2.5 ounces of weed for personal, recreational use. If approved, the state would levy a 10 percent excise tax on retailers and a 6 percent sales tax.

Though North Dakota passed a medical marijuana measure nearly two years ago, weed has yet to become available anywhere in the state. Now the committee behind the first initiative is seeking to make recreational marijuana legal.

The state’s attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem, said he doesn’t think full legalization would make North Dakota safer, but advocates said it would force police to focus their efforts on violent crimes.

Missouri and Utah, meanwhile, could join 31 other states and Washington, D.C., in legalizing medical marijuana.

Abortion

In Alabama, Oregon and West Virginia, voters will consider initiatives seeking to limit the number of abortions.

Alabama and West Virginia will consider similar measures that clarify that if Roe vs. Wade — the Supreme Court’s landmark abortion ruling in 1973 — is overturned, no one would be able to argue there is a state constitutional right to abortions.

Oregon’s initiative, meanwhile, seeks to prevent state money from funding abortions.

Supporters of Measure 106 say it won’t outright ban abortions and only impacts how it’s funded. Opponents say that in effect, it would reduce the number of abortions.

“When this measure is talked about as a cost-saving measure, it skirts the issue that this is an attempt to ban abortion for low-income women,” Grayson Dempsey, the leader of an opposition campaign, told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Minimum wage

While there are nationwide campaigns to raise the United States’ minimum wage to $15, two states in the South have ballot measures to raise theirs to a shorter extent.

Arkansas’ provision would raise minimum wage from $8.50 an hour to $11 an hour by 2021. The last time the state had an increase was in 2014 when voters OK’d a gradual $2.25 increase, which fully went into effect January 2017.

Missouri’s initiative is more ambitious, seeking an increase from $7.85 an hour to $12 an hour by 2023. If approved, the minimum wage would rise to $8.65 in 2019 and then increase by $0.85 each year.

“The gradual minimum wage increase will give businesses time to adjust while experiencing benefits such as cost savings from lower employee turnover and increased sales thanks to greater consumer buying power,” Pam Hausner, a leader in the effort to increase the minimum wage, told the Kansas City Star.

Three congressmen representing Arkansas in the U.S. House, though, said they plan to vote against the increase.

“Raising the minimum wage costs jobs and opportunities to start a career, particularly for those entering the workforce or trying to get their first job,” Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., said in a statement to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Voting requirements and redistricting

Twenty states this year will consider measures that in some way deal with voting laws or campaign finance.

Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah each have initiatives that, if passed, would make an independent body responsible for drawing up or approving congressional district maps. Ohio’s measure would change the voting requirements to approve of new redistricting maps.

A requirement to show photo identification when voting is up for consideration in Arkansas and North Carolina and an initiative in Florida seeks to restore voting rights to felons.


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