Saturday, March 2

The ballot issues for Election Day 2023 with the highest stakes across U.S. voting

Voters in five states took up ballot measures in the 2023 elections Tuesday, weighing in on issues including abortion, marijuana legalization and abolishing wealth taxes. 

Perhaps the most closely watched ballot measure was Ohio’s Issue 1, on guaranteeing abortion access to women in the state, and it was projected to pass Tuesday night. 

Here are some of the top ballot measures to watch.

Ohio Issue 1: Abortion access 

Ohioans voted on whether to amend Ohio’s Constitution to enshrine abortion rights in state law, which appears on the ballot as Issue 1. A “yes” vote would amend the state Constitution, while a “no” vote would reject the amendment and keep the status quo. The measure was projected to pass Tuesday night.

In Ohio, abortion is legal until 22 weeks, although Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, signed a bill into law in 2019 that outlaws abortions once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, usually at about six weeks into a pregnancy, without exceptions for rape or incest. The new law has been blocked by state courts while litigation continues.  

Ohio is one of several states that put abortion protections on the ballot after the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion with its decision in Roe v. Wade

If the final results show the measure won a simple majority of votes, it will become law 30 days after the election. 

Last year, Kansas voters rejected a ballot measure that would have eliminated abortion protections from the state Constitution. 

Ohio Issue 2: Marijuana legalization

CBS News projected Tuesday night that Ohio’s Issue 2, on legalizing recreational marijuana, will also pass. The issue allows adults over 21 to legally purchase, possess and grow marijuana for recreational use.

The measure would allow eligible adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at a time, and sales would be taxed at 10%. The measure would also allow Ohio residents to keep up to six cannabis plants. 

A vote against the measure would mean marijuana would remain illegal in the state. 

Issue 2, if the final results verify Issue 2’s passage, it would go into effect 30 days after the election. 

Colorado Proposition II: Excess nicotine taxes for preschools 

A ballot measure in Colorado, Proposition II, would allow the state to keep any revenue that exceeds official projections from tax increases on tobacco, cigarettes and nicotine, and require Colorado officials to spend those funds on preschool education. If the measure is not approved, the state must refund excess revenue to wholesalers and distributors.

Maine Question 2: Expanding ban on foreign spending in elections

Foreign spending is already prohibited in federal, state and local elections, but a Maine initiative would expand the ban. 

The ballot measure would prohibit foreign governments as well as entities with at least 5% foreign government ownership or control from spending money to influence candidates or ballot measures. 

Federal law doesn’t prohibit foreign nationals from donating related to ballot measures.

The measure also directs TV, radio, print and online news organizations to establish policies to prevent publishing communications where foreign government-influenced entities have illegally spent money. 

If it becomes law, violating the prohibition would be a crime punishable by a $5,000 fine, or double the amount of the contribution, whichever is greater. 

Maine Question 8: Removing bar against voting by some with mental illness

Another Maine ballot measure would remove a constitutional provision that a federal court has already found unconstitutional, a state provision barring people who are placed under guardianship because of a mental illness from voting. 

A federal court in 2001 found Maine’s constitutional provision violated the Constitution’s due process and the equal protection clauses. Amendments to make voting available to people under guardianships for mental illness have been on the ballot in Maine before, but not since 2000. And the public’s understanding of and perspective on mental illness has shifted significantly in the last 23 years. 

Texas Proposition 3: Banning wealth taxes 

This Texas measure supports amending the state Constitution to prohibit the Texas Legislature from enacting a tax on a person’s wealth or net worth in the future. Such a tax is highly unlikely in the near future, since Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, as well as the governor’s mansion. 

“The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual wealth or net worth tax, including a tax on the difference between the assets and liabilities of an individual or family,” the title of the ballot measure reads. 

Texas Proposition 4: Raising the homestead tax exemption

Another Texas ballot measure would amend the state’s constitution to increase the homestead tax exemption for homeowners from $40,000 to $100,000 for their primary residence.

Currently, homeowners may deduct $40,000 from the appraised value of the home to calculate the homeowner’s state tax burden. This measure would increase that figure to $100,000, in light of soaring home prices in Texas in recent years.

The measure would also allow the Legislature to limit the annual appraisal increase on non-homestead properties.

Texas Proposition 12: Eliminating the Galveston County treasurer

One of the more unusual statewide ballot measures is Prop. 12, which asks all Texas voters whether they support an amendment to the state Constitution to abolish the position of Galveston County treasurer. 

In fact, it’s the Galveston County treasurer himself, Hank Dugie, who is pushing the measure, meaning he’s seeking a constitutional amendment to eliminate his own job. Dugie campaigned for office — and won — on getting rid of the position. He argues that his job is redundant, that other departments can easily absorb the duties of treasurer, and taxpayers should not have to pay his salary of $117,260. 

Dugie points out on his website that this is not the first time Texas has voted to abolish the county treasurer’s job — if Prop. 12 succeeds, Galveston will be the 10th county in the state to get rid of its treasurer.

The amendment would authorize the county to choose someone else or another county official to fulfill the duties of treasurer. 

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