November 2012: What’s on your ballot?

Update: To see what your ballot looks like (in any state) go to the updated article here.

It’s that time of the year again. The days get longer, the weather a bit less cold, and one’s mind turns to thoughts about politics. How can one resist the siren song of the election season? Everywhere you look there’s coverage on debates, primaries, Super PACs, political ads, nonsensical sound bites, and more. Which is great if you’re a political junkie like me. But for everyone else there seems to be a bit of confusion. Who won in Iowa? What’s a caucus? What are we voting on again?

Fear not gentle reader! The Occasional Planet is here to help you (at least if you live in Missouri) by giving you a glance at some of what you might be voting on this November. (Any citizen of Missouri can create a ballot initiative, but it needs to be approved by the Secretary of State and then receive signatures equal to around 5% of the total votes cast in 6 out of 9 congressional districts from 2008.) Let’s start by looking at the two constitutional amendments put forth by Missouri lawmakers.

The first one is an amendment that voters have heard about before. (In fact this has the honor of not only being vetoed by the governor in 2011, but it was brought before the Missouri Supreme Court where it was ruled as unconstitutional in 2006.) Regardless, the Missouri Voter ID Amendment refuses to die. In essence, passing this would require anyone who votes to show a current government issued photo ID. The main criticism (other than it being unconstitutional) is that requiring a photo ID disenfranchises the elderly, college students, poor people, and those bad at keeping track of paperwork. Plus it will cost the state around $7-10 million to implement in the first year.  Some people claim that requiring a photo ID that it will stop voter fraud, but the Secretary of State for Missouri claims that fraud isn’t a problem here. The second amendment that will be voted upon is called the Public Prayer Amendment. It will add text to the state constitution that says that “That school children have the right to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools.” and it ensures, “the right of Missouri citizens to express their religious beliefs shall not be infringed.” Other than sounding very nice to a Conservative base, this is a rather redundant amendment because it’s already in the U.S. Constitution. (It’s nice to see what our lawmakers were up to last session. One supposes it looks better on paper to make amendments to the Missouri Constitution than reading the actual U.S. Constitution.)

Those two amendments are already on the ballot in Missouri. But there are a slew of petitions that have been approved by the Secretary of State that might also get voted on. A few of them include:

  • Personal property tax amendment that would abolish personal property taxes on vehicles, farm equipment, and manufactured homes.
  • Income tax replacement initiative that would phase out state income taxes and would levy a sales tax on more items.
  • There is a petition to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour.
  • Campaign finance limit initiative which would create a $5,000 limit on contributions from an individual to a campaign.
  • A $1 increase on taxes per pack of cigarettes.
  • Payday loan initiative that would limit the annual rate of interest, fees, and finance charges for payday loans. (Missouri has some of the highest payday loan rates in the country with a whopping 1,950%)
  • Stem cell research amendment that would outlaw some forms of stem cell research that is currently allowed in the state.
  • “Right to work” amendment that would outlaw any contract that would require an employee to pay union fees.
  • Marjiuana legalization and regulation initiative that would decriminalize marijuana use, possession, and tax the sales of for those over the age of 21.
  • Lastly there is an initiative reform measure that would change the way ballot initiatives work.

While none of these initiatives are guaranteed to be on the ballot, it’s pretty likely that some of them will make it. This isn’t even a full list. There are more dealing with eminent domain, early voting, racial profiling, and a slew of tax related ones. This season, pay attention to people with clipboards asking you to sign something (the deadline is May 6) and more importantly don’t forget to vote!