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Voters Across U.S. Lean Progressive on Ballot Measures

Yeah, yeah, yeah, another off-year election has voters picking Republicans over Democrats for a few elected offices. But get past personalities and party labels, and voters around  the country, just like the voters in South Dakota, pick progressive policies more often than the pols they pick to make laws.

The pro-democracy Ballot Initiative Strategy Center summarizes results for ballot measures across the country that caught its attention. Out of 20 ballot measures on which BISC took a firm position for or against, local voters voted in that progressive direction 15 times:

  1. 53% of Minneapolis voters supported authorizing the city council to control rent.
  2. 53% of St. Paul voters supported capping rent increases at 3% a year.
  3. 61% of Detroit voters supported decriminalizing entheogenic (a very new word built from Greek roots meaning “making one feel filled with god” and meant to replace the negatively connoted terms hallucinogenic and psychedelic) plants and fungi, like peyote and magic mushrooms. (Some libertarians would contend that allowing people to fungally freak themselves out is entirely conservative; this liberal contends the only thing progressive about drugs is the progress the user makes toward brain fry and uselessness.)
  4. 80% of Detroit voters supported creating a city reparations committee to make “recommendations for housing and economic development programs that address historical discrimination against the Black community in Detroit.”
  5. 69% of New York State voters approved a constitutional right to “clean air and water and a healthful environment.”
  6. 61% of Maine voters declared that people have a “natural, inherent and unalienable right to food,” including the right “to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being.” (Take that, Kristi Noem, you insulting hypocrite!)
  7. 52% of Broomfield, Colorado, voters approved using ranked choice voting for mayoral and city council elections…
  8. …as did 73% of Ann Arbor, Michigan, voters
  9. …and as did 63% of Westbrook, Maine, voters for city and school board offices. (Sorry, Scott.)
  10. 60% of Tucson voters approved raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
  11. 57% of Colorado voters rejected a property tax cut for multifamily housing and lodging. (One could argue that such conservative tax policy would benefit low-income renters, if we could be sure that landlords would translate lower taxes into lower rents, but that’s not what the ballot measure mandated.)
  12. 54% of voters rejected raising their marijuana tax to pay for out-of-school educational services. (This liberal has no problem taxing the crap out of pot, but this liberal can also see the progressive logic of opponents who said any tax dollars for education should be used to improve education in schools first, not vouchers to send kids to private after-school education programs.)
  13. 70% of Albany, New York, supported giving its Community Police Review Board subpoena and independent investigative authority to check police misconduct.
  14. 59% of Cleveland voters approved creating a civilian review board to oversee police.
  15. 69% of Austin, Texas, voters rejected a measure establishing a minimum police:population ratio of 1:500, requiring additional police training, and giving cops bonuses for foreign language proficiency (wait, I like that!), mentoring cadets, and receiving awards for honorable conduct. Opponents said spending more on cops would shift city cash away from firefighters, paramedics, and librarians.

BISC lists five instances where voters went against BISC’s progressive recommendations:

  1. 56% of Minneapolis voters rejected restructuring its police department to focus on a “comprehensive public health approach” and drop a population-based police staffing quota.
  2. 58% of New York State voters rejected removing the requirement that voters register at least ten days before the election and allowing the Legislature to enact same-day voter registration.
  3. 56% of New York State voters rejected no-excuse absentee voting.
  4. 56% of New York State voters rejected a proposal to lower the vote threshold necessary for the New York Legislature to approve its redistricting commission’s maps; to count all residents, not just citizens, in redistricting; to count prisoners for redistricting where they lived prior to incarceration; to freeze the number of State Senate districts at 63; and to prohibit splitting census blocks in cities into different districts. (I’m not convinced this measure leans progressive, but BISC supported it.)
  5. 62% of Texas voters supported a constitutional amendment preventing the state or any political subdivision from prohibiting or limiting religious services, thus making it harder for local governments to enact sensible restrictions on gatherings that could endanger public health during a pandemic. (Putting religion above public health isn’t really conservative; it’s just pigheadedly theocratic and self-destructive.)

These results across the country help explain why Republicans across the country are trying to hamstring the ballot initiative process: ballot questions break voters away from partisan branding and gets them to engage in some modicum of critical thinking about policy… and the more voters think, the more they tend to vote for progressive policies.


  1. Mark Anderson 2021-11-03 17:37

    Most people are sane. It’s simple.

  2. Guy 2021-11-03 17:40

    Cory, your list of statistics all come from left-leaning states and cities.

  3. Guy 2021-11-03 17:50

    President Biden needs to broker a compromise between the leftists and the moderates in his party to pass a infrastructure structure bill. If it doesn’t pass, then I believe that is going to have a major influence over everything else moving forward. Senators Sinema and Manchin are trying to help him achieve that goal. Somehow, he needs to encourage Speaker Pelosi and the left wing of the party to back down on their demands. The President needs to successfully show Pelosi and the leftists how their demands will certainly kill any deal.

  4. O 2021-11-03 18:55

    Mark, no they are not!! So many voters do not associate issues and candidates. They continue to vote against the candidates who are proponents very issues they like, and vote for candidates who oppose those issues.

    Guy, I would say the opposite. The conservatives need to stop making the Democrats seem incompetent and afraid of making desperately needed changes. Who needs an opposition party when you have Sinema and Manchin?

  5. mike from iowa 2021-11-03 18:56

    Seriously, Guy, did the Great Pumpkin pay you a visit on Halloween?

  6. Guy 2021-11-03 19:00

    O, they are voting on issues that matter to them. The Virginia election is proof that you had people from across the political spectrum that did not agree with racially divisive demands from those on the left when it came to the education of their children. The conservatives are not making the Democrats seem. Incompetent because the Democrats are doing that all to themselves by caving into the demands of the radical left-wing.

  7. Guy 2021-11-03 19:08

    This is why I maintain we need to elect more Blue Dogs. We need more moderates in the Democrat Party. Speaker Pelosi and her extreme left-wing is greatly damaging the Democrats.

  8. Guy 2021-11-03 19:29

    O, Senators Sinema and Manchin are throwing the President a major life line on the Infrastructure Bill. I now ask this question: is President Biden going to wake up and grab it or double down and sink with Pelosi?

  9. John 2021-11-03 20:04

    Daley lays out the almost insurmountable challenge for democrats to nationally legislate, despite representing 41 million more voters. Despite representing the general and overall will of most of the governed. The senate is THE drag on our nation.

    The only solution I’m able to think of is creating more states. Though the republicants could also duplicate that scheme. Bottom line, the slave holders and 241 year old compromises may have doomed our republic.

    No wonder that the US non”democracy” is strongly disfavored in the world and US. And to imagine the US had the hubris to “export democracy” with its arrogant nation building military adventures.

  10. Guy 2021-11-03 20:10

    John, you said: “Despite representing the general and overall will of most of the governed. The senate is THE drag on our nation.”

    The Senate may be “THE drag on our nation,” but, may I remind you there is a VERY GREAT reason for the drag. It is one of MANY checks and balances put into place to PREVENT TYRANNY from the MAJORITY. The United States is a Democratic Republic. Throughout history, you will often see the majority attempt to run roughshod over the civil liberties of the minority. There have times when you side was in that boat.

  11. Guy 2021-11-03 20:16

    Though I am NO fan of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he as wise to describe the proper function of the U.S. Senate. McConnell said the tea cup represents Congress and that like a good hot tea, passions of the majority can often boil over. That is where the Senate comes in as the saucer, cooling down the boiled over tea. I totally agree with McConnell on this as an Independent voter. I like both sides kept in check.

  12. Mark Anderson 2021-11-04 00:31

    Guy, it’s nice to know Texas and Ohio are leaning left. By the way, I thought Manchin and Sinema believed in compromise, is that only with the other party? I know Manchin said what Biden ran on and was elected on, cost too much, but that was a week after he voted to spend more money on the defense department than the next 10 countries in the world spend on theirs. Maybe after all that money and all the wars he’ll be up for changing the name to the war department? ( I got that from some other writer.)
    Again, didn’t conservative South Dakota vote to legalize weed? Double again, back to the military, I know it’s a first job for a large percentage of those small town boys graduating high school, so is it like welfare for the red states? Is that why it costs so much? I would really like to ask Manchin if the trillions we spent in the mideast was well spent and that’s why we can’t afford anything the European citizens have?

  13. Mark Anderson 2021-11-04 00:48

    Guy, Virginia did what it always does. Going way back. Both Virginia and New Jersey vote for the governor of the opposite party going back to the 70s. This time at least New Jersey voted for the incumbent, first time since 1977 that the Democrat won re-election. Virginia was within a point, point and a half. I think Manchins speech the day before didn’t help, but thats just me. By the way I cobbed this from Rachel Maddow. Oh on my second comment above, Florida also voted to give former felons back their legal right to vote. The legislature as it usually does has been playing and delaying that. Now I would like to talk about the Republican lie about CRT but I’m too tired, tommorrow is another day after all.

  14. O 2021-11-04 08:09

    Guy, preventing tyranny of the majority should not empower tyranny of the minority.

  15. larry kurtz 2021-11-04 08:15

    Don’t let Republicans like John Thune fool you. They add amendments that benefit their donors to Democratic bills then vote against the final product knowing those bills will pass. Little wonder they face primary challengers because even the extreme white wing of that party know hypocrisy when they see it.

  16. O 2021-11-04 09:15

    Guy, thank you for engaging my arguments. I agree that the Republicans do not need to help the Democrats look incompetent; they are doing that themselves. (Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.). However, The error here is not in the Pelosi/Progressive/Moderate Democrat coalition, it is in the conservative (Blue Dog?) hold outs. Those two neither stand for what Democrats stand for, nor are they willing to carry the party water to allow Democrat bread-and-butter legislation to pass. I do not see Manchin looking out for anything other than old, polluting energy technology owners in his home state. He is beholden to those owners’ interests above making a transition to clean energy technology modernization. That is not a Democrat stand — it is what I would more often attribute to our GOP legislators. The refusal to look at meaningful taxation of the wealthy and large cooperations who are not paying for the infrastructure they so lavishly profit from is not a Democrat stance. Two senators are not representing anything more than their re-election pocketbooks. They are both willing to derail an entire agenda that does help their constituents in their refusal to compromise on issues dear to their donor base.

    As for the Virginia outcome, I agree that social/education issues swung that election, but as with most all social warfare, it is a ruse. Education reforms that the GOP fear mongered are NOT part of the Virginia education system — nor are they proposed. That is the thing about boogiemen, they are not real. It turns out that truth is also the first casualty of politics. Also, at best these should be school board level issues; allowing them to be elevated to Governor issues was another failure of focus for the Democrats. That all became more of a political problem for Democrats as they had an agenda of programs that will help voters tied up with their own party. Usually Democrats need GOP help to derail an agenda — now that they can do that all themselves, there seems to be less reason to put these folks in charge. That is a BIG problem for Democrats moving forward.

    Democrats need to divorce themselves from the interests of the wealthy and reinvigorate the middle class through a true dedication to those bread-and-butter issues that make the true driver of this nation succeed.

  17. Porter Lansing 2021-11-04 10:27

    I love it when Pat Powers and his bloggers gloat, brag, and sanctify their team.

    “Democrats Are In Disarray”
    “Biden says, We’re going to win!”
    “John Thune is favored at 88%.”

    They’ve forgotten that the biggest embarrassment a political party can have is a sitting President losing his reelection.

    “We’ve got ’em right where we want ’em.” – Joe Steady

  18. Daniel Buresh 2021-11-04 11:09

    “Well, as can be seen by going to the DFP (dumb f###### people) website, the colorado moron burger flipper is quoting posters from Dakota War College.”

    I may not agree with much at DFP, but at least the content here is so much more interesting and knowledgeable than Pat Powers and his blog. The amount of censorship Pat does and doesn’t do is pretty telling. Most intelligent people in the Republican party understand that Cory is leaps and bounds ahead of Pat as it concerns political analysis and they actually wish Cory was on the republican side because his intelligence is on another level compared to Pat. Ever since Pat was involved in the doxing scandal with Rounds and PTH, it is clear that he has no morals or integrity concerning governance. Not to mention he shamelessly resigned from government because he was using his position of public service for personal gain. He spends more time being concerned with where Cory is moving to than addressing the numerous lawsuits that Cory has won on behalf of supporting the public and voters. You know, actually discussing politically important topics in SD as it pertains to the voting public. Pat’s failures bleed through in his content and it is so easy to tell. Their immature chants and sayings only further demonstrate their cognitive abilities. It’s time to return the party to moderates so the adults can accomplish something for the people. Just remember, DFP is a journalistic blog, while DWC is a paid advertising machine.

  19. mike from iowa 2021-11-04 11:12

    Cory came from the Darkside. They had him and let him walk (or made him walk). Our gain bigly.

  20. mike from iowa 2021-11-04 11:21

    Guy, after Dems won the house in 2018, they passed over 400 bills that McCTurtleF###Face sat on and would not hold a single hearing on any of them in the sinate.

    You had, and still do, have one side held in check by magats. Open your eyes and begin to look around at what is really going on. Which party of magats wants to keep people of color from voting, no matter if they are US citizens or not? Why do magats want to deny equal rights to all, especially women? Which party has made a mockery of gerrymandering for their sole advantage? Which party blocked Obama’s judicial choices and then changed the rules to allow sinate approval without Democratic input on lifetime judges? Wake the hell up!

  21. larry kurtz 2021-11-04 12:26

    Since Republicans like John Thune insert those egregious amendments into legislation important to President Biden’s forward movement Senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema can credibly argue those earmarks serve masters they simply cannot support.

    Yes, representative democracy isn’t perfect but it certainly beats the spit out of civil war any day.

  22. Porter Lansing 2021-11-04 17:30

    colorado moron burger flipper?

    Thank you, Daniel.

  23. Richard Schriever 2021-11-05 01:00

    Guy – those are not “statistics”. those are raw numbers – data – unmanipulated FACTS.

  24. Clyde 2021-11-06 21:42

    Something that should be headline news on every media outlet in the state. Especially in the state that invented “initiative and referendum”.
    As I see it foreign money can now control ballot measures!

  25. Guy 2021-11-10 12:30

    Well. . .it’s like I said before, the President was FINALLY SUCCESSFUL in signing the Infrastructure Bill with bipartisan support in Congress. He wisely took the advice of Senators Sinema and Manchin and encouraged Speaker Pelosi and the U.S. House to pass a bill that cut-out wasteful spending demanded by the Left. This is how our system is supposed to work for the benefit of all Americans. It also shows the Moderate Democrats are beginning to take their party back from the Radical Left.

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