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6 States Where Voters Could Push Democracy Forward in the Midterms

February 27, 2018 in Blogs

By Kevon Paynter, YES! Magazine

From raising the minimum wage to enacting police reforms, here are ballot initiatives progressives should watch in 2018.

The 2018 midterm elections in November present a real chance for Democrats to regain control of the U.S. House, Senate, and many state legislatures. Yet choosing newly elected officials won’t be the only important items on the ballot. In at least six states, American voters have the chance to directly enact legislation that would curb corporate lobbyist influence, raise the minimum wage, enact police reforms, or restore voting rights.

California was the first state to enact an initiative process in 1911, at the time in reaction to the unchecked power of the railroad barons. Now 11 states allow citizens to bypass state legislatures and enact laws directly.

“That history is extremely relevant today as progressives find themselves with state governments that have been bought by conservative-corporate billionaires types—the Koch Brothers,” says Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. “How do we have a proactive, hopeful, equitable strategy for the ballot that builds each election cycle and develops the narrative of what we care about?”

Sarver says her group will support measures in the next election cycle that address economic inequalities and expand access to democracy. Here are six state ballot initiative progressives should watch in 2018.

De-escalating Washington state

A coalition of Washington state residents called De-Escalate Washington believes racial bias and inadequate training are frequent and dangerous determinants of how and when police use deadly force. Initiative 940 would require that police use deadly force only when it is unavoidable and a last resort. It would require every law enforcement officer in the state to receive violence de-escalation, mental health, and first aid training, and would establish officer duty to apply first aid to save lives at the earliest opportunity.

De-Escalate Washington has been working for two years on statewide policing standards, but the initiative was underscored by the fatal shooting of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old African American pregnant mother of four killed by police in June. Lyles, who was struggling with mental health issues, called the police to report a home burglary, …read more


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