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How did 2022 ballot measures fare?

In October, our blog covered ballot measures across several states and topics. From voting rights to recreational marijuana and more, we’re revisiting the ballot measures to see how they fared.

Voting Rights

In our first blog about ballot measures, we covered seven states with voting-related ballot measures. Five of six were approved in November, and Louisiana votes on Amendment 1 in December.

  • Voters in Nevada approved Question 3, joining Maine and Alaska in using open primaries and ranked-choice voting. This system is widely considered to better represent voters’ preferences, and it requires candidates gain broad support.
  • In Connecticut, voters approved Question 1 to allow in-person early voting. In a win for voting rights, there are now only four states not utilizing early voting.
  • Michigan saw another major voting rights win after voters approved Proposal 2. The measure amended the state constitution to implement several voter protections.
  • Voters in Arizona narrowly defeated Prop 309, which would’ve restricted protocols around voter ID and mail-in ballot laws. Native groups celebrated the outcome of the ballot measure, contending that it would’ve created barriers for tribal voters.
  • Nebraskans approved Initiative 432, allowing the state legislature to pass a law requiring a photo ID to vote.
  • Issue 2 passed in Ohio, prohibiting local governments from allowing people lacking qualifications to vote in local elections.

Recreational Marijuana

Of the five ballot measures seeking to legalize cannabis, Missouri and Maryland prevailed. Residents of Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota voted against legalizing cannabis for recreational use.

Enslavement, Servitude, and Criminal Punishment

Voters in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont approved ballot measures to remove racist language and involuntary servitude from their state constitutions. In Louisiana, however, Amendment 7 failed by over 20%.

There were two main issues that contributed to the result, the first being voter confusion over the amendment’s language. The second issue was the amendment not going far enough; it still allowed for forced labor in prison, making the measure the same as the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Reported by NBC News, Black voters in the state are rightly feeling confused, angry, and embarrassed. We hope the amendment will be reworked and brought back in another election soon.

Other ballot measures

In Colorado, voters approved Proposition 123, which will create an affordable housing fund. The state will now have several new programs aimed toward building affordable housing and keeping folks in their homes.

Voters in Nebraska and Nevada approved minimum wage increases for their respective states. Initiative 433will bring Nebraska minimum wage to $15 by 2026. Question 2 increased Nevada’s minimum wage to $12 by July 1, 2024, and now allows the state legislature to pass minimum wage laws higher than $12.

New York voters, through approval of Proposal 1, acted on climate change and environmental justice. Over $4 billion will now be used on initiatives related to the environment, natural resources, water infrastructure, and climate change mitigation. At least 35% of the money will go to disadvantaged communities; it’s great to see the strong pursuit of environmental justice.

Ballot measures, such as these, can make a huge difference on state policy. It’s important to be informed each election about the proposals on the ballot in your state, in addition to being knowledgeable about the candidates.

Affirmative action on the chopping block

The U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases in late October about affirmative action policies in university admissions. Folks are bracing for the decision from the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court and expect it to end affirmative action. In this week’s blog, we’ll discuss the real problem in university admissions and the misguided ire against affirmative action.

At the center of the cases are Harvard University and the University of North Carolina; while the former is a private school and the latter is a public school, both are highly prestigious institutions with very low acceptance rates compared to other schools within each respective category.

The main argument against affirmative action is that considering race in the admissions process is “unfair,” to people not considered racial minorities. Opponents of the policy argue that racial minorities are given preference, which contributes to discrimination against white people. The argument essentially claims “reverse racism,” which is a historically shortsighted myth.

Affirmative action helps ensure equality in educational opportunities and reduces continued perpetuation of the systemic racism our country was built upon. Affirmative action, which aims to redress historical wrongs, is under attack; it’s not the culprit of “unfairness” in college admissions, however.

The admissions policy that should actually be abolished is the practice of legacy admissions or giving an advantage to students if their family members attended that institution. If it’s unfair to consider race in a prospective student’s application, wouldn’t it also be unfair to consider admitting a student because the institution is their parent’s alma mater?

At Harvard, one of the institutions in question in the SCOTUS cases, the 2022 class was comprised of over one-third legacy students. According to data from 2010 – 2015, Harvard legacy applicants were five times more likely to be admitted than non-legacy applicants. How is this considered fair, yet affirmative action isn’t?

Moreover, diversity in higher education is beneficial for everyone involved. Students surrounded by peers with different backgrounds will gain a broader perspective. So not only is affirmative action good for reckoning with decades of racial inequality, but it also improves the education experience.

If SCOTUS strikes down affirmative action, we know what to expect. In 1996, California voters passed a ballot measure banning race-conscious admissions at the state’s public universities. Research shows the ban hindered Black, Native American, and Latino enrollment. Black student enrollment remains disproportionate compared to the number of Black high school graduates in the state.

Affirmative action exists to correct decades of discrimination, while legacy policies reinforce that history. We do have a bias problem within college admissions, but it’s not affirmative action.

2022 Midterm History-Makers

In our last blog before the midterm election, we discussed the historic number of Black women running for office. Now we’ve seen the results from the election, and several Black candidates made history. From state elected offices to the U.S. Congress, let’s take a look at some of the history-makers from the 2022 election.

Governor

Wes Moore was the only Black candidate to win a governorship this cycle, making him the third Black governor in history and the first Black governor in Maryland history. We still await the day a Black woman is elected governor; keep an eye out for 2024.

Lieutenant Governor

Alongside new Gov. Josh Shapiro, Austin Davis was elected Pennsylvania’s first Black lieutenant governor. He also holds the title of highest ranking Black official in the commonwealth.

Attorney General

Three Black attorneys general were elected this cycle, all of which were the first Black AG in their respective states. Anthony Brown was elected in Maryland as the first Black AG in the state. Andrea Campbell became the first Black female AG in Massachusetts.

Secretary of State

In 2021, Shirley Weber became the first Black secretary of state in California when Gov. Newsom appointed her. This election cycle, she became the first Black secretary of state elected in California. In Connecticut, Stephanie Thomas became the first Black woman elected secretary of state in Connecticut.

U.S. Senate

Of the Senate races that have been called, we didn’t see any new Black candidates win. However, Georgia is heading to a runoff, and we could have a new Black senator if Herschel Walker wins. Walker is on the ballot against Reverend Raphael Warnock who was elected in 2020. Warnock has already made history of his own, becoming the first Black senator from Georgia and the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate by a former Confederacy state. We won’t know the winner of the seat until Dec. 6 or after.

U.S. House of Representatives

Several Black candidates won House races, including two of the three we discussed in the last blog. Jahana Hayes was reelected to represent CT-05, and Emilia Sykes won in OH-13. Additionally, Summer Lee was elected in PA-12, making her the first Black woman from Pennsylvania to serve in Congress. John James also made history in Michigan as the first Black Republican to represent the state.

Congratulations to all the winners and history-makers. We look forward to Black folks continuing to run for elected office in record numbers, making our government more representative of the population.

Black Women Belong in Office

Over the last few weeks, our blog has analyzed ballot measures that’ll be decided by voters in the upcoming midterm election. Not only is it important to know what’s on your ballot, but it’s important to know who is on your ballot. This week’s blog focuses on an encouraging and exciting trend of the 2022 election cycle – Black women running for office in record numbers. Up until now, only two Black women have ever served in the U.S. Senate and only 21 Black women in the U.S. House of Representatives. No state has ever elected a Black woman to the governorship.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics, the 2022 primary and general elections featured 134 Black women running for the U.S. House of Representatives, a figure which includes 105 Democrats and 29 Republicans. It’s a new record, jumping from 117 in the 2020 election and 80 in 2018. We can’t cover all the Black women running for U.S. House, so we’ll look at some of the most competitive races.

  • Jahana Hayes was first elected to represent CT-05 in 2018, when she became the first Black woman and first Black Democrat to represent the state in Congress. A former public school educator, she’s facing a tight reelection race against George Logan.
  • In IN-01, Jennifer-Ruth Green is a Republican challenging incumbent Democrat Frank Mrvan. Green has a background in the U.S. Air Force and as an educator in northwest Indiana.
  • Emilia Sykes is a Democrat running in Ohio’s District 13, after serving as a state representative since 2015 and the minority leader from 2019 to 2021.

The number of Black women running for the U.S. Senate reached a new high in 2022 with 22 candidates, including 16 Democrats and six Republicans. 13 Black women ran for the U.S. Senate in 2020 and only six in 2018.

  • In Florida, Val Demings is a Democrat vying to unseat Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. She has served in the U.S. House since 2016, and before that served as the Orlando Police Department chief.
  • In another competitive Senate race, Democrat Cheri Beasley is running against Republican Rep. Ted Budd. Beasley was an associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 2012 until 2019 when she became the first Black woman to serve as chief justice in the state.

The 2022 cycle boasted 12 Black women running for gubernatorial office, which is up from zero in 2020 and six in 2018. 11 of the women running this year are Democrats and one is a Republican.

  • The Georgia gubernatorial race features Stacey Abrams running against Gov. Brian Kemp, to whom she narrowly lost in 2018. That year, she became the first Black woman to be a major party gubernatorial nominee and afterward founded an organization to combat voter suppression.
  • Iowa is another state in which a Black woman is on the general election ballot, as Democrat Deidre DeJear is running to unseat Gov. Kim Reynolds. She’s a small business owner and ran for secretary of state in 2018.

2022 has been a historic election cycle for Black women, and we can only hope the records will be broken again in 2024. Congratulations to all the candidates – Black women belong in office!

Midterm Ballot Measure Summary #3

Over the last two weeks, our blog has covered ballot measures for the upcoming midterm elections. Check out the last two blogs to read about the most popular ballot measure themes: voting rights, abortion, involuntary servitude, and cannabis. Several states have ballot measures on other important topics.

California

Californians will vote on seven total ballot measures in November. We’ve previously written about Proposition 1 regarding abortion; the state has several other important ballot choices.

  • Proposition 27 would legalize mobile sports betting. The revenue created would go toward homelessness and mental health support, in addition to tribal economic development.
  • Proposition 28 is an initiative seeking to require funding for public schools’ arts and music education. If passed, the initiative would be equity-focused, requiring additional funding directed to districts with more economically disadvantaged students.

Colorado

Coloradans will decide on 11 ballot initiatives this fall. Two of the most important are affordable housing and education.

  • Proposition 123 would designate 0.01% from current income tax revenues toward affordable housing programs. Just a few of the initiatives included are an affordable housing equity program, a grant program for affordable housing developments, a rental assistance program, and more.
  • Proposition FF would reduce income tax deduction eligibility for people earning over $300,000, and the state would use the revenue to create the Healthy School Meals for All Program. All schools participating in the program would be reimbursed for giving students free meals in addition to other food-related funding.

Nebraska and Nevada

Among other initiatives, Nebraska and Nevada both have minimum wage ballot measures.

  • Nebraska’s Initiative 433 would increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2026.
  • Nevada’s Question 2 would increase the minimum wage to $12 by July 1, 2024.

New Mexico

New Mexico has six ballot measures this November, and three of them are related to bond issues.

  • Bond Question 1 asks voters to decide on $24 million for senior citizen facility improvements.
  • Public libraries could receive over $19 million if approved by voters on Bond Question 2.
  • Finally, Bond Question 3 asks voters whether the state should give just under $216 million to public higher education, special public schools, and tribal schools.

New York

New York only has one ballot measure this fall which is related to climate change.

  • Proposal 1, if approved, would give $4.2 billion in bonds for initiatives related to the environment, natural resources, water infrastructure, and climate change mitigation. At least 35% of the bond issue will benefit disadvantaged communities based on socioeconomic and environmental criteria.

Oregon

Four ballot measures, including Measure 112 on involuntary servitude, will be on the Oregon ballot in November.

  • Measure 111 is another significant one in Oregon. If passed, the state constitution would be amended to include a right to “cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable healthcare as a fundamental right.”

Midterm Ballot Measure Summary #2

Last week’s blog focused on the ballot measures in different states regarding voting rights and cannabis legalization. Many states have ballot measures on other topics; this week we’ll discuss more of the initiatives on which voters will decide this November.

Enslavement, Servitude, and Criminal Punishment

Still today, 20 state constitutions include language that permits “enslavement or servitude as punishments for crimes.” Five states will vote this fall to keep or remove involuntary servitude from the state’s laws.

  1. Alabama voters will decide on the “Alabama Recompiled Constitution Ratification Question” which, among other provisions, would permanently remove all racist language. If approved, the state constitution will no longer have racist language regarding involuntary servitude, interracial marriage, school segregation, and poll taxes.
  2. On the Louisiana ballot, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to remove or keep language that allows involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. However, if the ballot measure passes, it would add a section saying it “does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.”
  3. Oregon voters will decide on a similar ballot measure. If approved, it would remove language allowing slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments, while adding language authorizing Oregon authorities to sentence convicted individuals with alternatives to incarceration.
  4. Tennessee’s ballot measure is rather simple. If approved, the constitution would read “Slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited.”
  5. The constitutional amendment ballot measure in Vermont is also straightforward. It would replace repealed language with “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.”

Abortion

The overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer popularized abortion ballot measures. Five states have abortion on the midterm ballot.

  1. With Proposition 1 on the ballot, California voters have the opportunity to enshrine abortion and contraceptive rights into the state constitution.
  2. Michigan voters will decide this fall on Proposal 3, called the Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative. If passed, the state would implement broad reproductive freedom healthcare protections.
  3. In Vermont, voters will decide on Proposal 5, named the Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment. If approved, the Vermont Constitution will protect reproductive autonomy and prohibit government infringement.
  4. Voters in Kentucky will decide on a constitutional amendment similar to the one Kansans voted down in August. If approved, the Kentucky Constitution would not protect the right to an abortion or government funding for abortion.
  5. Montana is the final state with an abortion-related initiative on the midterm ballot. LR-131, if passed, would institute a state statute saying that infants born alive at any stage are people and they must be given medical care. The law specifically mentions babies born after induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or other methods.

2022 Midterm Ballot Measure Summary

Midterm elections are less than a month away, and it’s important to know what’s on the ballot. Voters in most states will decide on a variety of ballot measures. This week’s blog is a summary of 2022 ballot measures regarding cannabis legalization and voting rights.

Recreational Marijuana

Five states have the opportunity this fall to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

  1. For the first time in state history, Arkansas will have a ballot measure to potentially legalize recreational marijuana.
  2. Missouri is the second state with a recreational marijuana ballot measure this fall. In addition to legalization, the initiative would expunge non-violent marijuana offenses.
  3. North Dakota has a second opportunity this fall to legalize recreational use after voters rejected the initiative in 2018.
  4. In South Dakota, voters will have a chance to redo the marijuana legalization measure that passed in 2020 but was ultimately overturned by the South Dakota Supreme Court.
  5. The final state with cannabis on the ballot this fall is Maryland. In 2014, the state decriminalized possession for 10 grams or less, and the voters now could legalize it entirely.

Voting Rights

Voters in seven states will decide on various policies related to voting rights.

  1. In Nevada, voters will decide whether to switch to open top-five primaries and ranked choice voting. If the state votes yes, it will join Maine and Alaska in using the system.
  2. Only five states are without some form of early voting, and it could be down to four after midterms. Connecticut voters will decide on a constitutional amendment allowing no-excuse early voting.
  3. Michigan voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would permanently establish several expanded voting initiatives. The proposal would explicitly outlaw any regulations that interfere with one’s right to vote.
  4. A constitutional amendment in Arizona, called Prop 309, would create stricter voting rules. If passed, the amendment would eliminate the two-document alternative to photo ID, and mail-in ballots would be required to have a voter ID number and date of birth.
  5. In Nebraska, voters will decide on amending the state constitution to require photo ID to vote.
  6. Ohio has a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would bar local governments from allowing certain groups to vote. Non-citizens, non-residents, minors, someone registered for less than 30 days, would not be allowed to vote in local elections.
  7. Louisiana has a ballot measure similar to Ohio’s, which would bar non-citizens from voting.

The Racial Wealth Gap and Education

Last week we talked about racial discrimination in the home appraisal industry, a practice which has contributed to the inability of Black families to build generational wealth like white counterparts. Undervalued homes are just one example of many obstacles Black Americans have faced in pursuit of generational wealth. Today, we’re discussing higher education and its relationship to the racial wealth gap.

Education as “the great equalizer” may have been true when Horace Mann made the claim in the mid-1800’s, but it’s no longer the case. Going back several decades into the mid 20th century, graduation rates from both high school and college have steadily increased. The racial wealth gap, however, has remained as wide as it was in the 1960’s. These trends clearly prove that education alone is not the “great equalizer.”

Pursuing higher education can lead people to higher-paying jobs and better financial outcomes, but it comes at a cost for those without generational wealth. Those that can go to college and not enter into massive debt have the upper hand on students that have no choice but to take out loans for college.

People that currently lack generational wealth must take out loans for college and ultimately can’t build wealth quickly. This is how the feedback loop works to exacerbate the racial wealth gap.

To make any progress on the racial wealth gap, the student loan gap needs to be addressed first. The debt relief announced by the Biden administration this summer is a start to resolving the issue. Giving $20,000 to Pell grant recipients is a racial equity initiative, given that 89% of Black borrowers and 84% of Hispanic borrowers received Pell Grants.

That debt relief initiative alone should not be expected to resolve the student debt crisis or the racial inequities that exist within the student loan borrower population, nor will it solve the racial wealth gap at large.

Education is important to closing the racial wealth gap. However, the current state of higher education is not conducive to achieving equity. President Biden’s student debt forgiveness initiative is a welcome and well-intentioned start, but it doesn’t address the problem of college affordability at its root.

Without addressing college affordability, the student loan debt and generational wealth gaps will continue to widen. The debt burden resting disproportionately on people of color is the result of many decades of injustices across several facets of society. It’ll be very hard to close unless our elected officials address inequities in several institutions – from housing to education, and more.

Systemic racism in the home appraisal process

The United States has a history of racist housing policies such as redlining and exclusionary loan practices. While the Fair Housing Act of 1968 technically prohibited discrimination in housing, the effects of those historical policies persist today. A major example of this is the current widespread phenomenon of racism in the home appraisal process.

We’ve seen multiple examples of racism or bias effecting Black homeowners and the value of their properties, with a recent example from a Maryland couple. Upon first appraisal, Nathan Connolly and Shani Mott’s home was valued at $472,000. Nathan, a history professor and expert on historical racism in American housing, had a white colleague stand in for the family during a second appraisal.

The second appraisal valued the home at $750,000, making the difference $278,000. A quarter of a million dollars is quite a significant gap in valuation. While this is one egregious example that garnered media attention, the practice is quietly pervasive in the industry. It happens to individual Black households, like the aforementioned example, and entire neighborhoods of color are undervalued.

The Brookings Institution found in 2018 that homes in majority Black neighborhoods are valued at half of homes in neighborhoods with no Black residents. Moreover, when juxtaposing homes of similar quality in comparable neighborhoods, Black neighborhoods were worth almost 25% less than white neighborhoods. The study found a strong correlation between race and home value that can’t be explained by differences in quality.

Bias is prevalent and exacerbated by the demographic makeup of the property appraisal industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 97.7% of the industry is white, 4.3% are Latino, while Black and Asian appraisers make up 1.1% and 1%, respectively. Racial diversity in the industry is very much needed.

We might be on the way to progress, however. The Biden administration released a plan in March 2022 called the Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity Task Force, so several federal agencies and offices can collaborate to root out the problem. The plan proposes several actions that will be integral to progress. Those include strengthening laws against racial discrimination at all stages of the valuation process, enhancing fair housing practices and accountability among appraisers, educating and empowering consumers to report bias, better researching the systemic issue, and diversifying the industry.

We hope the federal government’s plan will be swiftly put into action to squash racial discrimination in home appraisals, to afford Black families the long-denied opportunity to build wealth like our white counterparts. Until we see data indicating a change, it’s never a bad idea to get a second opinion on the value of your home.

 

The Jackson water crisis: environmental racism

Most have heard by now about the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi. The capitol city of Mississippi has had a deteriorating water system for years, coming to a head now because state elected leaders opted to continually ignore the issue. Why might that be? Systemic environmental racism and neglect are to blame.

Unfortunately, the current situation is reminiscent of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which is known as one of the most egregious examples of environmental racism in recent years. The water crisis in Jackson may be even more blatantly racist.

Demographically, Flint is a slight majority Black city with 54% while Jackson is over 80% Black. Flint occurred after state officials switched the water source in attempts to save costs, and the current crisis in Jackson is a result of chronic neglect. Every local, state, and federal elected official with jurisdiction over Jackson has known about the water quality issues for years. Only some were interested in fixing the problem.

Gov. Tate Reeves, the guy who doesn’t believe systemic racism exists and has celebrated “Confederate Heritage Month” multiple times, has thus far deflected any responsibility. Reeves recently tried to blame the city, claiming he hadn’t seen any water system improvement plans and in 2020 said the city needed to do better “collecting their water bill payments before they start going and asking everyone else to pony up more money.”

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba pulled the receipts, however, producing documents from the last several years that showed the city’s funding requests and plans for necessary repairs. Reeves, clearly no friend of Black folks, got caught lying about his neglect of the largest city in his state.

Gov. Reeves is not the only person deserving of blame though – an incalculable number of people have been involved in perpetuating systemic environmental racism through redlining and historical disinvestment. Environmental injustices such as the Jackson crisis are a direct result of racial segregation and redlining, as many scholars have noted in the wake of this emergency.

The residents of Jackson affected by the legacy and fallout of systemic racism need state leadership that works toward equity and against environmental injustice. While Gov. Reeves is not wholly responsible for the circumstances, he exacerbated the issue by ignoring it.

It’s time for local, state, and national elected representatives in Mississippi to come together and deliver clean water and environmental justice to residents. Such an egregious environmental disaster as this is unacceptable for the people of Jackson and other cities alike.

 

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