Voters Choose Progressive Path on Ballot Measures – November 5, 2014

From the media coverage and pundit reactions to yesterday’s election results, you would think that progressives should just call it quits. No doubt what happened for Democrats across the country on Tuesday wasn’t ideal and there’s plenty of work still to do, but it’s worth noting and applauding Tuesday’s important progressive victories — and some in very red states.

Over the past four years, the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) has researched the way voters experience ballot measures. Time and again we have seen that voters, especially those that Democrats and progressives spend precious resources to reach – the New American Majority of young people, women, and people of color — are frustrated with the hyper-partisanship and gridlock that dominates Congress and their statehouses. They’re frustrated by the out-of-touch, mean-spirited debate between candidates. Most of all they’re frustrated because they don’t believe that things are going to change no matter which candidate or party wins. This is in stark contrast to how voters look at ballot measures — as a direct and tangible way to participate in our democracy and make positive changes.

For many of the partners and organizations BISC works with, voter preference for progressive policies on the ballot is no surprise. While people may be discouraged by what’s going on in Congress and their statehouses, they vote for progressive change on the ballot when they have the opportunity. Progressive policies on economic fairness, voting rights and gun violence prevention resonate with voters, and not just in blue and purple states.

We won major victories on ballot measures this year, and there is reason for progressives to take note — and to be optimistic about what this means for 2016 and 2018. At a time when momentum on progressive policies is difficult to build in legislatures across the country, ballot measures are giving lift to core economic and social values.

Making and economy that works for everyone:

Protecting women’s access to reproductive health care:

Voting rights:

Expanding voting rights:

Protecting voting rights:

Gun violence prevention:

Leaders, legislators and future candidates should draw lessons from what voters are saying when they have the opportunity to take direct action on policy issues. As we debate the path forward for this country, I wanted to lift up into the broader post-election conversation some important lessons:

The initiative process was created as a check on corporate power and political machines in states across the country — over 100 years ago. Progressives should harness the momentum we are seeing on ballot measures now, and use them as a tool to chart the path forward for progressive change. For complete coverage of the key races, see BISC’s Election Report.

Originally posted on Huffington Post.