Progressive victories by ballot initiative

Posted on November 22, 2016

While the presidential election was a disaster and other candidate elections just so-so, progressives did very well in 2016 by enacting policies through ballot initiatives. Here is a summary:

Civil Rights and Liberties

California approved Proposition 64, Nevada approved Question 2, Maine approved Question 1, Nevada approved Question 2, and Massachusetts approved Question 4, all of which legalize the recreational use of marijuana by citizens 21 years of age or older. Oklahoma approved State Question 780 which reclassifies certain property offenses and simple drug possession as misdemeanor crimes. Additionally, Oklahoma also approved State Question 781 which directs money saved from the previous initiative into funding rehabilitative programs for criminals, including substance abuse and mental health treatment programs. Montana approved CI-116, North Dakota approved Initiated Constitutional Measure 3, and South Dakota approved Constitutional Amendment S, all of which expand the rights of crime victims and incorporate these rights into their state constitutions.  California approved Proposition 57 which increases parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allows judges, instead of prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court.

Consumer Protection

South Dakota approved Initiated Measure 21 which places an interest rate cap on short-term payday loans made by predatory money lenders. Washington approved Initiative 1501 which increases criminal identity-theft penalties and expands civil liability for consumer fraud targeting seniors and vulnerable individuals.

Environment and Smart Growth

California approved Proposition 67 which upholds legislation that bans grocery stores and other retailers from providing single-use plastic carryout bags to customers.

Government Performance

South Dakota approved Initiated Measure 22 which revises campaign finance and lobbying laws to increase transparency and creates a publicly funded campaign finance program as well as an ethics commission.


California approved Proposition 58 which repeals prior legislation in order to allow non-English languages to be used in public educational instruction.


Arkansas approved Issue 6, Florida approved Amendment 2 and North Dakota approved Initiated Statutory Measure 5, all of which legalize the use of medical marijuana for qualifying conditions. California approved Proposition 52 which extends indefinitely an existing statute that imposes fees on hospitals to fund health care services for uninsured patients and low income children.

Public Safety

California approved Proposition 63 which prohibits the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines and requires certain individuals to pass a background check in order to purchase ammunition. Nevada approved Question 1 which requires sales of firearms to be conducted through a licensed gun dealer who must run a background check prior to the transfer.  Washington approved Initiative 1491 which authorizes courts to issue extreme risk protection orders which remove an individual’s access to firearms.


Nevada approved Question 4 which exempts from sales and use taxes certain medical equipment prescribed for use by a licensed health care provider. California approved Proposition 56 which increases the cigarette tax by two dollars per pack and includes equivalent increases on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

Wages and Benefits

Arizona approved Proposition 206 which increases the minimum wage to $12 dollars per hour by 2020 and establishes employees’ right to earn paid sick time. Colorado approved Amendment 70 and Maine approved Question 4, both of which raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020. Washington approved Initiative 1433 which raises the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020.