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Looking for reasons to vote besides party politics? Here is a quick and dirty guide to today’s main events in direct democracy: the ballot measures.

You can read more about these issues (and every aspect of the election) in the PBS Newshour Briefing Book (download).

Obamacare: California Prop. 45 would allow the state’s insurance commissioner to veto and roll back insurance premium increases. This sets up a potential turf battle with the state’s exchange, Covered California, but could also lower insurance premiums for individual buyers. The Los Angeles Times and insurance companies say vote no. Bill Boyarsky and the California Nurses Association say vote yes.

Immigration: Oregon Measure 88 would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and official state ID cards.

Marijuana: Alaska, Florida, Oregon and Washington, D.C., will decide whether to allow some form of legal marijuana consumption, from medical (Florida) to private (Alaska) to general decriminalization (Oregon and D.C.).

Guns: Washington has two measures related to background checks, one favoring and one opposed. Alabama, meanwhile, could amend its constitution to treat gun ownership as something close to sacred.

Minimum Wage: Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota have initiatives on the ballot to raise the minimum wage ever so slightly, although Alaska’s proposal would tie the wage to inflation and South Dakota’s would be fixed to the consumer price index.

Crime: California Prop. 47 would reduce some nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors. This is potentially a big deal in a state with a huge prison population, scandals related to abuse and solitary confinement, and the legacy of the three-strikes-and-you’re-out law.

Abortion and Choice: Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee each have draconian proposals on the ballot to restrict or eliminate abortions, ranging from a measure that would claim life begins at conception to one that aspires to end the rape, incest and health exception. Illinois, meanwhile, could require insurance companies to cover prescription contraception.

There are many more important ballot measures. Check your sample ballot. Go online. Share your concerns in the comments. Read a newspaper. Most important: Vote!

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer


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