Politics

Forget 2016. Here Are 9 Huge Issues Americans Are Voting On In Today’s Elections.

CREDIT: Graphic By Andrew Breiner

Much of the national media’s attention has of late been focused on the upcoming 2016 presidential election — and comedian John Oliver is not happy about it.

“By the time it’s done, the 2016 election will have lasted the entire lifespan of a hamster, from birth all the way to popsicle-stick grave,” the Last Week tonight host said on Sunday. “We should not be talking about the 2016 race when America has very important elections taking place this Tuesday.”

Indeed, voters across the country will go to the polls on Tuesday to elect various state legislators and governors, and the outcomes of those races could have wide-ranging policy implications. Oliver himself focused on one particular policy — affordable health care — during his show, noting that a number of races could drastically influence low-income residents’ access to Medicaid. For more on those races, ThinkProgress’ Alex Zielinksi has a good breakdown here.

But Oliver didn’t get to every key issue at stake in Tuesday’s elections. Across the country, there are numerous proposals on the ballot to enact new laws and constitutional amendments. These proposals include the minimum wage, an LGBT anti-discrimination measure, and marijuana legalization.

Here are nine of the most contentious issues Americans will vote on:

1) Whether to protect LGBT people from discrimination in Houston, Texas

A man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015.

A man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

Houston has recently been front and center in the battle for gay and transgender rights — the first major initiative since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide this spring, and it’s because of the city’s so-called “bathroom ordinance,” properly known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).

HERO’s opponents call it the “bathroom ordinance” because of its protections for transgender people, which they claim will allow “any man at any time” to enter a women’s bathroom. But the text of the ordinance simply prohibits “discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing” based on sexual preference or gender identity.

Currently, federal and Texas law do not explicitly prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender people.

2) Whether to nullify gun control in Coos County, Oregon

Earlier this year, the Oregon state Legislature passed a law requiring universal background checks for gun purchases in the state — even for private sales.

But in rural Coos County, voters will decide on Tuesday whether to prohibit local authorities from enforcing that law, and any future new gun control laws that might be passed by the state. The ordinance would also direct the Coos County sheriff to decide which state and federal gun laws are unconstitutional.

The ordinance comes in the wake of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, an Oregon college located in the county just east of Coos.

3) Whether to legalize marijuana in Ohio, but in a really weird way

Buddie, the mascot for the pro-marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio, holds a sign during a promotional tour stop at Miami University, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio.

Buddie, the mascot for the pro-marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio, holds a sign during a promotional tour stop at Miami University, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio.

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Minchillo

Ohio could become the fifth state (in addition to the District of Columbia) to legalize recreational marijuana on Tuesday. If it does, however, it will be doing it in a way that has never been done before.

State Issue 3 is a constitutional amendment that would allow marijuana for both medical and personal use for those 21 or older. If it passes, however, only one group of people would be allowed to grow it — a group of wealthy investors including former boy band star Nick Lachey.

Because of the inclusion of this so-called “marijuana monopoly,” the ballot initiative has been especially controversial. Some who have fought for decades to make marijuana legal in Ohio are opposing it.

4) Whether to enact a $15 minimum wage in Tacoma, Washington

Supporters of a $15 minimum wage applaud behind a speaker at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport during a news conference Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, in Seattle.

Supporters of a $15 minimum wage applaud behind a speaker at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport during a news conference Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, in Seattle.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

There are two minimum wage measures on the ballot in Tacoma, Washington. One would immediately require all city employers with at least $300,000 in annual gross revenue to implement a $15 minimum wage. The other would require all employers in the city, no matter how big or small, to gradually phase in a minimum wage of $12 by 2018.

If Tacoma passes the $15 minumum wage law, it would not be the first — its neighbor, Seattle, passed a $15 minimum wage law that began gradually going into effect this past April.

5) Whether to give every voter $100 — specifically to donate to politicians — in Seattle, Washington

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, as the court heard arguments on campaign finance. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, as the court heard arguments on campaign finance. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Initiative 122, also known as the “Honest Elections” initiative, seeks to totally chance the way money in politics works in Seattle.

Under the initiative, citizens would get “democracy vouchers” — four $25 coupons in the mail during every election year — which they could then donate to the qualified candidate of their choice. Supporters hope the new program would encourage participation in elections, and give ordinary people more control over the process.

There are a number of other aspects to the ordinance, which you can read about in this comprehensive piece by Mic’s Jake Horowitz.

6) Whether to limit the influence of special interest money in Maine elections

The measure on Maine’s ballot on Tuesday is similar to the one in Seattle, as it seeks to use public money in elections.

But Maine already does use public money in elections — Tuesday’s measure just seeks to strengthen it. Statewide Question 1 would build on the already-existing Clean Election Act, which allows candidates to receive public money to run for office if they collect enough small “qualifying contributions.” Once they get the public money, however, they can’t raise private money.

The current system is optional — candidates can raise private money if they want to. So the new measure seeks to increase the amount of money in the public fund, to incentivize politicians to use that option instead of raising money from special interests.

7) What to do with the $66 million in tax revenue from legal marijuana in Colorado

An employee helps a customer smelling the scent of marijuana for sale on opening day of a new outlet of the Colorado Harvest Company recreational marijuana stores in Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

An employee helps a customer smelling the scent of marijuana for sale on opening day of a new outlet of the Colorado Harvest Company recreational marijuana stores in Aurora, Colo., Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Legal marijuana has raised a lot of money in Colorado so far — $66 million in taxes for the state, to be exact.

But now, residents have to decide what to do with that money — do they give it back to marijuana growers and Colorado taxpayers? Or do they put the money into the education system, law enforcement, and youth programs?

That’s the decision at hand with Proposition BB. If that initiative passes, $40 million will go to Colorado’s education system, and $12 million will go to law enforcement, youth programs, and marijuana education, according to Motley Fool. If the measure doesn’t pass, the money will go directly back to growers and taxpayers.

8) Whether to increase affordable housing — at the expense of Airbnb — in San Francisco, California

Airbnb has reportedly spent $8 million to defeat this ballot measure in San Francisco, which seeks to limit short-term housing rentals.

Affordable housing advocates are pushing the measure, arguing that too much of the city’s housing is being used for these short-term rentals, while lower income people are being pushed out by higher rents. However, opponents say Airbnb is necessary for many residents to earn the income necessary to continue living in the expensive city.

9) Whether to formally protect the “right to hunt” in Texas

Ted Nugent takes aim with a hunting bow for a photo on his ranch near Crawford, Texas, Friday,  April 22, 2005.

Ted Nugent takes aim with a hunting bow for a photo on his ranch near Crawford, Texas, Friday, April 22, 2005.

CREDIT: AP Photo/LM Otero

One of the seven constitutional amendments Texans will vote on on Tuesday is one that guarantees residents the right to fish and hunt — something most residents likely already thought they had.

The measure, however, may not be as innocent as it sounds. According to the Huntsville Item, it is designed to prevent “possible legislative action that could limit the right,” which could include “pressure from animal rights or environmental groups” who might want to limit hunting of certain vulnerable species in the future.