State Ballot Initiatives to Watch

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State ballot initiatives are voter referendums that range from small tax code tweaks to addressing major issues like same-sex marriage and voter ID laws. Often when a state’s legislative and executive branches are unable to reach a consensus on an issue, a petition signed by a minimum number of registered voters can put the issue on the ballot for state referendum. On Nov. 6, 176 ballot initiatives will be decided across 38 states.

This year, many initiatives have been pushed by either a political party or by political activist groups. California ballot initiatives in particular have prompted a deluge of spending by millionaires and billionaires, corporations and out-of-state players seeking to enact political agendas that could then (they hope) spread to other states. This slideshow takes a look at ballot initiatives related to 10 hot-button issues.

Trenton Garris, right, joins other demonstrators showing their support for President Obama as he visits the Paramount Theater in Seattle one day after announcing his support for same-sex marriage. In both Maryland and Washington, opponents of same-sex marriage were able to collect enough signatures to challenge laws passed by the state legislature. (AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey)

Same-Sex Marriage

On Nov. 6, four states will vote on ballot initiatives related to marriage equality. Questions on the ballot in Maryland and Washington ask voters whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. An initiative in Minnesota asks voters whether same-sex marriage should be banned by adding to the constitution a section that states, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”

In Maine, voters will have the chance to overturn a 2009 ballot initiative against same-sex marriage. That 2009 initiative overturned a state legislature- and governor-approved law that would have legalized same-sex marriage in Maine.

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