Important Ballot Measures in the 2020 Election

The Story:

Several states had fascinating referenda and initiatives on their ballots this year, that drew a little of the spotlight away from the battles royale among aspiring and/or incumbent office holders.

Important Measures:

Voters in Oregon voted for Measure 109, creating a program for administering psilocybin products, such as psilocybin-producing mushrooms and fungi, to individuals aged 21 years or older. They also approved 110, which decriminalizes drug possession offenses, reclassifying hem as non-criminal violations resulting at worst in a $100 fine. Measure 110’s passage makes Oregon the first state in the nation to pursue this course.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts’ voters defeated an effort to introduce a ranked-choice voting (RCV) system. For purposes of illustration, consider a three-person campaign. In an RCV, voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. But if no candidate wins a majority, the third-place candidate is considered eliminated, and the second-choice preferences stated by that candidate’s supporters become critical. Those second-preference votes for the remaining candidates are added to named candidate’s own first preference votes, and a winner can be declared. It is in effect an automatic and immediate run-off election.

Alaska rejected a broad campaign finance reform measure (RCV would have come along with the package, but was not the part on which most attention was focused.)

The Thing to Know:

In times when, as now, there is deadlock and paralysis at the federal level, states and especially ballot measures can become a critical safety-valve for reformist energies. But in Massachusetts, Alaska, and other states, important changes to the traditional voting process itself are a tough sell.

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