Election Day Preview 2013

Tomorrow is Election Day 2013, and just two states - Virginia and New Jersey - are holding statewide elections.  In addition, voters in several states will be considering ballot initiatives on a wide range of issues, including the taxation of marijuana, raising the minimum wage, mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods, and increased taxes to support public education.   <--break->

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie appears to be headed toward re-election over Democratic state Senator Barbara Buono in the gubernatorial election.  In addition, all seats of the State Legislature are on the ballot.  Currently, Democrats hold a majority in both houses.   

In Virginia, there are three statewide races: Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General.  Democrat Terry McAuliffe has been leading Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the polls for governor, with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis currently polling close to ten percent.  Democratic state Senator Ralph Northam is also leading Republican pastor E.W. Jackson for the lieutenant governorship.  The race for Attorney General between Democratic state Senator Mark Herring and Republican state Senator Mark Obenshain remains close.  

All 100 members of the Virginia House of Delegates are on the ballot this year.  The Senate, currently tied at 20-20, is not contested this year.  However, the results of the lieutenant governor and attorney general races will result in special elections in 2014.

There will be a special election for a state senate seat in Washington that may have consequences for partisan control of the chamber.  Democrat Derek Kilmer vacated this seat after being elected to Congress in 2012.  In a hotly contested race, Republican state Representative Jan Angel is challenging the appointed Democratic incumbent Nathan Schlicher. Currently, the Washington Senate is controlled by a 25-24 Republican majority that includes the support of two Democrats.  

On the Ballot:

Colorado voters will decide on the fate of Amendment 66,  which would raise state income taxes to significantly increase education funding.  Specifically, the proposal would increase income taxes from a flat rate of 4.63% to 5% on earnings up to $75,000 and 5.9% on earnings above that amount.   State officials estimate the increased rates would raise $950 million for Colorado schools in its first year, which would be used to fund a major school reform bill (Senate Bill 213) passed in May that changes how the state distributes money to local school districts and increases funding for early-childhood education, full-day kindergarten, at-risk students, charter schools, and education-innovation grants.  SB 213 will not go into effect unless Amendment 66 is passed to fund it. The proposal is supported by Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper.

They will also vote on a a legislative-referred state statute to impose taxes on the sale of marijuana.  Proposition AA would impose two taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana, which was legalized by voters in 2012 via ballot initiative:

  • A 15% excise tax on all recreational marijuana sales in the state.  The revenue would be used to fund school construction.
  • A 10% sales tax, which would be in addition to the state's 2.9% state sales tax.  Revenues would be used to fund a state agency to regulate and monitor the marijuana industry. 

Lawmakers predict that if approved, it would result in approximately $70 million annually in new revenue, with $40 million for public school capital construction.  Medical marijuana would not be subject to the new taxes. 

    New Jersey voters will consider two legislative-referred constitutional amendments.  Public Question 1 would increase the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour with annual adjustments for inflation beginning January 1, 2014.  The current minimum wage is $7.25, the same as the current federal wage.  

    Public Question 2 will allow veterans organizations to raise money through hosting games of chance like bingo and raffles.  Currently only senior citizens groups can do so. 

    New York voters will consider a constitutional amendment to increase the retirement age for judges on the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.  Under the measure, judges on the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, would be allowed to complete their 14-year terms even once they pass the current retirement age of 70.  State Supreme Court judges, who also have a retirement age of 70, though they can seek a special re-certification every years that permits them to serve until 76, would be permitted to serve until they turn 80.  

    Voters will also consider a constitutional amendment to permit as many as seven new casinos.  The state's five existing casinos are all on Indian reservations. 

    Texas voters will consider 9 legislatively-referred constitutional amendments, including a measure (Proposition 5) that would allow seniors to purchase homes using reverse mortgages.  Texas is currently the only state that does not permit the practice.  A reverse mortgage allows seniors to receive equity payments each month while staying in their home, and the reverse mortgage is paid back with interest after the house is sold when the owner moves out or dies.  Currently, only those who already have a conventional mortgage could convert it into a reverse mortgage.  Passage of the measure would allow people to purchase a home and get a reverse mortgage in the same transaction. 

    Proposition 6 would move $2 billion from the state's rainy day fund to create a new State Water Implementation Fund to finance water projects outlined in the state's 50-year water plan. 

    Washington voters will weigh in on two initiatives.  The first relates to the initiative process itself.  Initiative 517 would make it easier to get proposals on the ballot.  It would require that voters be allowed to consider any proposal that qualifies for the ballot, even if a lawsuit has been filed against it.  It would also give supporters a year, instead of the current six months, to collect signatures and make it a misdemeanor to interfere with the signature-gathering process.  Some business owners are opposed to the measure, arguing that it would affect their ability to deal with aggressive signature gatherers bothering their patrons. 

    Initiative 522, if passed, would make Washington the first state in the nation to require genetically modified food to be labeled as such.  Specifically, it would require any food sold for retail that contains genetically-engineered ingredients to be labeled on the front of the packaging "clearly and conspicuously."  Restaurants would be exempt.  It is the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in state history, with the measure's opponents raising nearly $22 million, with large donations from out-of-state agribusiness companies like Monsanto.  Supporters have raised nearly $7 million.