2016 Ballot Measure Overview

On Nov. 8, voters were asked to directly vote on a total of 162 Ballot Measures as part of the 2016 general election. This is around the average number of initiatives in a presidential election year. Everything from gun control to healthcare, marijuana legalization and sin taxes were decided by votes in 35 states. Some of the more notable issues included the following:

  • Of the 162 measures, four were proposals to raise the minimum wage in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington. All four passed easily, paving the way for further minimum wage state actions across the country. Historically, minimum wage measures pass when presented directly to voters.
  • Four cigarette tax increases were proposed, with one passing in California and three failing in Missouri, Colorado and North Dakota. State activists are likely to attempt new tobacco taxes in coming elections.
  • Of a record nine marijuana-related ballot measures, eight were approved, including recreational use legalization in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada. Arizona’s attempt failed while limited medical marijuana measures passed in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota.
  • Business tax measures were decided on as well. Notably, Oregon voters stopped a union-backed tax (Measure 97) on businesses in the state, while Oklahoma voters rejected a sales tax increase.
  • In five jurisdictions, new Soda Taxes took center stage on the ballot. Three of those cities were in California (San Francisco, Oakland and Albany), along with Cook County, IL, implemented one cent per ounce taxes on sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages. Boulder, CO also passed a two cent per ounce tax on these beverages.

Lawmakers have long seen ballot measures as a way to get around the complexities of passing laws through state legislatures. While direct democracy can be good for voters, they are sometimes unclear as to the complexities of the laws that they support. Time will tell whether the measures approved in 2016 will have a positive or negative effect on state constituents.