Progressives will likely push a larger slate of liberal-popular ballot propositions in 2016 than in other election cycles in hopes of attracting a younger, more liberal voting group to turn out for the upcoming presidential elections.
Initiatives on marijuana legalization, background checks for guns, and raising minimum wages are likely to hit the ballot, groups that support such issues told Politico.
Further, they believe that bringing out younger, more liberal voters could also get the laws past an increasingly conservative government, which likely would not pass the laws on a legislative basis.
Younger and minority voters came out in full force in 2012 to re-elect President Barack Obama, but in the midterms last month, Republicans took back the Senate and gained in the House thanks to the lowest voter-turnout since 1942.
"Especially with gridlock in Washington and fewer states likely to address the minimum wage legislatively, we’re likely to see more ballot initiatives on the minimum wage and other progressive economic issues," said Paul Sonn, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project.
It's too early to know where the initiatives will appear on ballots, said Sonn, but he mentioned Missouri, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, and Washington state among states where gridlock can hinder such propositions.
And marijuana legalization advocates say groups are planning for action in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and legislation could be on the ballot in Missouri and Montana as well.
The federal government does not recognize marijuana as being legal, but so far a handful of states have passed the legislation, including Oregon, Alaska, and Colorado. In Washington, D.C., it is legal to use and transfer marijuana, but not sell it.
Meanwhile, gun-control initiatives are also heating up. In Nevada, more than enough signatures have been turned in to put the issue on a ballot, and attempts may also come in Arizona and Maine in 2016.
All are measures that have huge popular support, but Congress can't get laws passed on them, and John Matsusaka, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Initiative and Referendum Institute, said after some initiatives pass, they may start getting some legislative support as well.
The NRA and other gun rights advocates say they are watching the proposals that will pop up on the ballots, and that they take their constitutional challenges seriously and will be fighting back.
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