Julie Oliver, in TX-25, is running one of the most inspiring campaigns of 2018

After years of establishment Democrats running rote, indistinguishable TV ads and peddling cautious, focus-group-tested messaging, a wave of fresh, progressive candidates have decided to communicate like actual humans. Fresh faces such as Randy Bryce and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have produced a series of especially moving digital ads that have gone viral, and this week, even amidst the Kavanaugh calamity, a new progressive star was born.

Julie Oliver, who is running to represent Texas’s 25th district in Congress, narrates her own life story in the ad; she grew up in near-poverty and ran away from home as a teenager, squatting in abandoned buildings until she got pregnant at 17. Shunned by her boyfriend’s family, she returned home, where her mother agreed to help her — on the condition that she get back to school.

The rest is the sort of up-from-your-bootstraps American Dream success story that seems to only happen in movies or very hypothetical conservative scenarios: Oliver worked and raised her family while attending college and law school, and now at 45-years-old, she’s an accomplished lawyer and community leader running for Congress. Her experience makes her uniquely empathetic to the needs of working people, a quality in short supply in Washington today.

“We have a president who keeps me in this fight because we’re given reasons every day to fight or to stand in a fight with somebody,” Oliver told Progressives Everywhere last week. “Whether it’s immigrants, it’s kids who deserve a fantastic, great public education, or our veterans, I’m standing in the fight with them.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

Oliver felt compelled to run in the summer of 2017, during the heat of the GOP attempt to overturn Obamacare. She spent years working in healthcare finance and law and was intimately familiar with the issues facing both the system and individual patients — the cost of being uninsured, the stress on rural hospitals and clinics, and the still-too-high uninsured rate, which sits at 16.6% in Texas. The Republican obsession with exacerbating all those issues spurred her to action.

“A year ago when Congress met to repeal the ACA and didn’t have a plan to replace it, they just wanted to yank the rug out from under millions of Americans,” Oliver explained. “I said, this is so ludicrous that they would do this. Millions of people benefit from having healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and even though it’s not perfect, it works for a lot of people.”

She has personal stake in the ongoing fight, as her son has an immune system issue that would qualify as a pre-existing condition under any insurer. Her family would have been yet another to fall victim to medical bankruptcy had the ACA not guaranteed coverage. Having spent so much time in the healthcare industry, she is strongly in favor of moving to a Medicare for All system and suggests that should she win, she’d sponsor a House version of the Choose Medicare Act, which would create a public option and be a big first step toward a single-payer system.

After winning a close Democratic primary settled in a run-off election, her GOP opponent in the long, gerrymandered district is Rep. Roger Williams, who has been in office since 2011. Williams has accomplished little more than taking some photos with Donald Trump and collecting lobbyist donations. Oliver has sworn off all PAC donations and has an innovative proposal for creating a public campaign finance system, which would be funded by using Congress’s broad authority to levy taxes to tax Super PACs. It’s not a pipe dream, legally speaking — Oliver worked for years in tax law, and so she is intimately familiar with the ins and outs of our complicated system.

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

“Not taking PAC money really is so I can say that I want to be a representative for the district and for me to be able to talk to somebody who might not see eye-to-eye with me politically,” she said. “That’s a game-changer, when I say that I don’t take PAC money.”

Being in Texas means that there will be plenty of voters who are not immediately predisposed to voting for a progressive Democrat, if only due to years of fear-mongering by Republicans and half-hearted efforts by local Democrats. Oliver laments the toxicity of the current political climate and has resolved to overcome hurdles inherent to Democrats in Texas one voter at a time, even in a district that stretches over 400 miles.

While Williams has been criticized for being relatively absent from the community he represents, Oliver has dedicated herself to door-to-door campaigning, town halls and senior center visits, trying to create “the human-to-human touch that has been missing” over the last decade or more. The district, which stretches from Fort Worth to Austin, is a +11 Republican district, which is red, but not nearly as red as some of the other districts that have flipped already this year. And there is hunger for more change.

Watching the Kavanaugh hearings, as painful as they were, reminded her of just how different 2018 feels, of how the furor being experienced by women and anyone with a conscience has become so overpowering that no level of obstruction or institutional unfairness can stem the rising tide of rebellion.

“I believe that women are going to going to get woke, for lack of a better term, and they’re going to come out and vote,” Oliver, who has two adult daughters, said. “The misogyny and the patriarchy that we see that has been going on for a long time and coming down from the highest levels of office — we’ve got to smash it, smash the patriarchy.”

And no matter what happens in her race, she’s already doing her part to advance the cause of working people and inspire women with her action and her story.

“A dad reached out to me on Facebook yesterday and he said, ‘Your story is so eerily similar to my daughter’s. She’s pregnant now and she’ll be raising the baby by herself as a single mom. She didn’t think that she had a future,'” Oliver recalled. “And he said, ‘I started talking to her about you about a month ago, and then she saw your video and she texted me today and said that she had enrolled in her first college course.’ I just started crying.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Julie Oliver via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

Another Democratic uprising in Texas puts a deep red GOP district at play with progressive policy

When I started Progressives Everywhere last year, it was with candidates like Miguel Levario in mind. In order to truly rebuild a better Democratic Party, we need to work to build it everywhere. Too many states had been instantly surrendered to Republicans, which, along with enabling corrupt politicians to govern millions of people, had the effect of making our political map smaller and smaller.

There were far too many districts that didn’t even field Democratic candidates for local and federal office in 2016 — including Levario’s northwest Texas district, TX-19, which includes cities like Abilene and Lubbock and major schools such as Texas Tech University.

Levario is a professor of history at Texas Tech and the first Democrat to seriously run to represent the district since 2004, when Texas’s extreme partisan gerrymander made it deep red. But between Texas’s seismic and ongoing demographic shifts, the district’s changing profile, and the wave of progressive energy sweeping a nation disgusted with GOP grifters, Levario figures he has a pretty decent shot at pulling off the upset. His opponent is against an unremarkable Republican, Rep. Jodey Arrington, who is running for re-election for the first time, improving his odds even further.

CLICK HERE to donate to Miguel Levario via ActBlue!

“In the 19 months we’ve been running, I’ve met more independents than in the first 11 years I lived here,” Levario told Progressives Everywhere last month, laughing at the observation. “Before, everybody was proud to be a Republican and proud to be conservative and they didn’t hide it. Now, whether it’s because of the White House or Congress or just the divisiveness in society, I have Republicans telling me, ‘I can’t believe I’m meeting with a Democrat and I like you.'”

The northwest Texas district is still predominantly rural, but the growth in the universities and the further development of medical/biotech hubs in Lubbock and Abilene have brought an influx of younger, more progressive residents in more urban and suburban areas.

That leads to some divergent concerns, but Levario is bridging the gap by running on an unapologetically progressive platform that aggressively challenges entrenched corporate interests, addresses cultural divisions pushed by the GOP, and includes policies such as Medicare for All.

“We’re not getting the anti-Obamacare rhetoric, even from Republicans. When we talk about healthcare, they’re afraid they’re going lose the little bit that they have,” Levario reports. “In our smaller areas, they’re already seeing the clinics close down and at the very least they’re seeing services being taken away because they simply cannot afford it because Texas did not take the Medicaid expansion. I find it ironic that some of our clinics are in heavily Republican, pro-life areas, yet they can’t deliver babies because they can’t afford to it.”

He’s no longer hearing misguided hysterics over “socialized medicine,” given the rising cost of healthcare and the increasingly limited availability. One voter that he met on the trail told Levario that he had to go to Europe to get affordable care for his cancer; many others have had family members or friends forgo medical care, due to the expense, until it was too late.

The cruel reality of the modern medical business, even in a district with so many medical research centers, has changed the attitude of voters there.

“We haven’t moved our platform to the center,” Levario says. “We believe in people. We don’t shy away from Medicare for All because that’s what people want.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Miguel Levario via ActBlue!

It also helps that Arrington is such a hardcore more Republican. He worked for George W. Bush when he was both Governor and President, now supports Trump’s Muslim ban, and uses bible verses to justify cutting off food stamps. It puts him far outside any American mainstream, and as Republicans lose grip on Texas — look at the Beto O’Rourke surge against Ted Cruz — it also puts Arrington further on the right wing even in that state.

Still, when Levario began his campaign, he heard from plenty of old-school Democrats — the remains of the party, those that didn’t convert to the GOP after the LBJ years — that he had to play it safe to have a shot.

“They said you’ve got to be more moderate. People 60 and older were still believing that we’ve got tread lightly here, saying we live in a conservative district and we should more in the middle,” he relayed. “I listened, but then as I said, when we go and talk to people, they don’t want ‘moderate,’ they want what they want. They want healthcare, they want funding for their schools. They want their teachers to get paid.

“We don’t frame it as being liberal, progressive, socialist, or Democrat,” he continued. “That might turn off people because of the cultural context here. But the platform and the plans and proposals that we offer are certainly along those lines of a progressive candidate.”

The growing Hispanic population in the district has yet to equate to a political shift, but as Levario notes, he’s the first Latino candidate to run for office there, and he’s predicting the beginning of the sea change that many have been bracing for in Texas.

“The thing is, Latinos vote. They just never had somebody to vote for. Lubbock is a very segregated city. So we’ve spent time in the neighborhoods that are predominantly Latino and African American. They know us and they said, yeah, you’re the first and only candidate that’s been out here in God knows when.”

That points to how Levario is running his campaign. Money is often tight, as it’s hard to get big Democratic donors to look at rural Texas when so many more obvious swing districts are at play. They’ve eschewed many TV ads or billboards on Texas highways, instead relying on grassroots support, going door-to-door in both cities and rural neighborhoods, holding events and shaking a lot of hands.

An influx of donations would go to digital campaigning — social media and Google ads — instead of the tradition of pouring money into TV or local radio, which provides less and less bang for their buck.

The core of the Levario campaign will always being present in the community, opening minds to Democrats and progressive policy one voter at the time.

“I always tell people it’s more expensive to avoid your constituents,” the candidate says. “You’ve got to make commercials and all kinds of stuff so that you can avoid them, but if you just confront them, it’s actually much cheaper. Just have to pay for gas.”

If Democrats can win a district like this, the GOP’s hold on so much of the country will no longer be a sure thing. And that would truly change America.

CLICK HERE to donate to Miguel Levario via ActBlue!

Medicare-for-All can happen, but maybe not how you’re expecting

What’s the largest medical bill you’ve ever received? OK, I don’t want to make you sick thinking back on it, so I’ll tell you mine: Back in 2012, I was slapped with a hospital bill for half a million dollars, which is more than most Americans pay for their house. This wasn’t some elective procedure, either — open-heart surgery very rarely is.

It’s important to note that this happened after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare was a nice upgrade to a fundamentally flawed system. More people got health insurance, but it’s often still uber-expensive (and getting worse) and still fully unavailable to tens of millions of Americans. Medicaid is being throttled, Republicans are sabotaging protections, and big pharma is colluding with middlemen to rip-off patients and states. Even people with “good” insurance get screwed — personally, I just got a $500 bill for a ten-minute checkup.

Democrats are finally beginning to realize that continually trying to patch up a ship built to sink is futile. And after years of it being considered a far-left radical idea, single-payer healthcare — or Medicare for All — is becoming the mainstream position of national Democratic leaders.

To take a closer look at the momentum behind the single-payer campaign, I spoke with Dr. Carol Paris, the president of Physicians for a National Health Program. For years, PNHP has been at the forefront of advocating for universal healthcare; during the Trump administration, it has worked to both save Obamacare and educate Democrats and lobby nationally for a more complete overhaul of our still-broken healthcare system. She spoke some hard truths about the state of our politics and party, but they’re important ones for us to understand and accept as we push forward for truly comprehensive universal healthcare.

Note: Because it’s a 501(c)(3), PNHP cannot endorse any political candidates. So, I’ve separately made this list of candidates who support Medicare-for-All — CLICK HERE to donate to them!

Medicare for All has more support amongst Democrats than ever. Why do you think that’s happened?

It really began growing as the reality of the failure of the Affordable Care Act to control costs and insure everyone became clearer… I don’t think that moved the legislators, I think it moved their constituents to put pressure on them to endorse single-payer.

The Affordable Care Act did extend care for a lot of people, but costs still go up. Were you expecting that?

I was not optimistic. The best thing about the Affordable Care Act was the Medicaid expansion. We could have done that with so much less effort and expenditure of resources and just forgotten about the rest. The best part of it and what helped the most people was the Medicaid expansion. With the marketplace and the subsidies, there’s so many problems, because the private for-profit insurance industry is baked into it. That’s a big part of it.

The industry says it can do things more efficiently, but that hasn’t been borne out. What kind of tricks is it still able to pull, despite new regulations?

The individual mandate created a whole market for new customers. Then there was the requirement that insurers can no longer deny coverage to people who are either too sick to be profitable or too old and therefore more risky. Eliminating those but adding the mandate put the insurance industry in a precarious situation of having to figure out how to work around the guaranteed issue and community rating while still drawing in the mandated younger members.

So what they do is they make narrow coverage networks. So you can get a plan with a subsidy or plan on the marketplace that will bring down the cost of your premium, but they do it by requiring you to go on a plan that has a very narrow network. There was a study and it found that in New York, none of the marketplace plans included the number one cancer hospital in the city, Memorial Sloan Kettering.

As far as pharmaceuticals, they’ll just put the expensive pharmaceuticals into a higher tier so that they’re just shifting more and more of the cost of care to the consumer.

So how do you envision a full Medicare-for-All system working?

The only way to actually implement it in a way that will be cost-effective over time is specifically to do it as a single-payer strategy. All single-payer means is instead of multiple insurance companies providing insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid and Tricare and all the others, everyone is in a single risk pool.

It really is only going to be feasible if it’s done on a national level. when you’ve got 325 million people and everyone working is contributing to the tax base that is paying for our healthcare. You’ve got a big enough tax base then to actually cover everyone’s needs for all medically necessary care — including dental, vision, and long-term care.

The problem people get hung up on is, “Oh my God, my taxes are gonna go up?” This is a situation where your taxes go up modestly and your net income goes up as well, and the reason is because when your taxes go up, it’s for covering the things that you’re now not paying for out of your after tax dollars, premiums, copays, deductibles, out of network costs. All of that goes away.

One thing I can never answer is what happens to all the jobs in the insurance industry?

Written into the House’s Medicare-for-All bill, HR 676, is funding to provide unemployment for a year and retraining for anyone who makes $100,000 a year or less in the insurance industry. And remember that we’re going to need some of those people to administer the Medicare for All plan. So the number of [of workers] isn’t going to go to zero.

I was actually just having dinner last night with a surgeon from Nashville who told me a great story. She’s a 67-year-old general surgeon and she was just saying she was so fed up with trying to get the care for her patients that they need. She does a lot of breast surgery and there’s a particular kind of breast cancer called BCRA 1 and 2, where if you have those genetic markers, it is a reasonable option for a woman to have prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, without having breast cancer.

Blue Cross Blue Shield denied the patient’s claim, her preauthorization to get this done. And what the doctor told me was that she finally remembered that a colleague of hers had quit the practice of medicine and was now working at Blue Cross Blue Shield doing preauthorization. So she called him up and he finally agreed that this was reasonable and authorized it. I’m telling you the story to say there are a number of doctors and nurses who are licensed clinicians in this country who have stopped practicing clinical medicine because they burned out and are now working for the insurance industry. These are people that could go right back into the delivery side of healthcare.

So if Democrats take back Congress and then the White House, how do you make the push for this, after the Affordable Care Act was what they mustered last time?

You’re talking to a person who is not easily persuaded that the Democratic Party is our friend. Remember that in 2009 we had a majority in the House and the Senate and we had a Democratic president and we couldn’t even get single-payer included in the discussion of health care reform. I’m actually of the persuasion that we need to have our grassroots organizing working on Republican members of the House and Senate, too. You get them to co-sponsor single-payer legislation. I don’t think that’s impossible. I think if the grassroots makes it toxic for any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, for them not to get on board, then they’ll get on board because they want to hold onto their seat.

I think it’s great if people want to put their time and energy into Democratic candidates who say that they will support. But corporate Dems are still in control and I am not convinced that just getting more Democrats elected to office is going to turn the tide. I think what’s going to turn the tide is what we saw last week, with a new Reuters poll that showed 84.5% of Democrats and 51.9 percent of Republicans now support Medicare for All, and 70% overall.

That’s how we’re going to get Medicare, in my opinion, by also having moderate Republicans who are absolutely being screwed by the rising cost of healthcare. I think they’re going to get on board with this and say, “I’ve got to do this for myself and my family and stop listening to Fox News and astroturf groups like the Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future.”

So let’s say we do get Medicare-for-All. What happens when a president or Congress who hate it take office, as we’re seeing right now with the GOP sabotaging the Affordable Care Act?

I actually don’t want to pass Medicare-for-All legislation if it’s done the way the Affordable Care Act was passed, through reconciliation and no bipartisan support. If we do it that way, then they’re just turning it into a hot potato, just like the ACA is, and it’s just going to get beaten back and forth between parties and never have the opportunity to become the beloved program that Medicare became. What I really would hope is that we passed this legislation because there is such a groundswell of support among the American people that members of Congress simply get on because they don’t have any alternative.

We’re seeing more buy-in from the business community, especially small businesses that are beginning to realize that the Chamber of Commerce is not their friend and that it’s in their best interest to support Medicare-for-All, that it would be so much better for their bottom line. And look at the teacher strike in West Virginia, there was actually a picture of a teacher holding up a sign that said, “We’ll work for health insurance.” So I think we need to be just continuing to grow the movement among our own citizens who are day in and day out being beaten and beleaguered by the profiteering healthcare system.

Candidates who support Medicare for All

Here’s a list of candidates for Congress in 2018 that support Medicare for All. You can donate to all of them by CLICKING HERE.

Ammar Campa-Najjar (CA-50)

Liz Watson (IA-9)

Andy Levin (MI-9)

Rob Davidson (MI-2)

Ilhan Omar (MN-5)

Randy Wadkins (MS-1)

Kara Eastman (NE-1)

Deb Haaland (NM-1)

Perry Gershon (NY-1)

Liuba Grechen Shirley (NY-2)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14)

Dana Balter (NY-24)

Nate McMurray (NY-27)

Phillip Price (NC-11)

Scott Wallace (PA-1)

Madeleine Dean (PA-4)

Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5)

Susan Wild (PA-7)

Jess King (PA-11)

Marc Friedenberg (PA-12)

Joe Cunningham (SC-1)

Beto O’Rourke (TX-Sen)

Veronica Escobar (TX-16)

Gina Ortiz-Jones (TX-23)

Eric Holguin (TX-27)

 

Ballot initiatives: Secrets of the most successful progressive strategy in years

Election night 2016 was a nightmare for progressives (and really most Americans), but there was one somewhat surprising and very promising bright spot. Ballot measures pushed by progressive groups were approved by huge margins by voters across the country, resulting in increased minimum wages, expanded Medicaid, and other big policy victories in both blue and red states.

Amazing what happens when the issues are clear and voters are offered a direct chance to improve their lives.

This year, with Republicans dominating government on all level, progressive groups have doubled down on direct democracy to push or fix important policies that corrupt conservatives (and to be fair, many Democrats) have either ignored or openly and cravenly blocked from passing. And as we saw in the massive victory for repealing the toxic “right to work for less” law in Missouri, these are very popular and winnable campaigns.

We’ve covered the red state progressive activists that have gathered enough signatures to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in Montana, Idaho, and Utah, and there are also a slate of people-powered initiatives that would end gerrymandering in states like Michigan, loosen marijuana laws in Missouri, and fix housing issues in California.  To learn more about the upcoming voter initiatives, Progressives Everywhere spoke with Donna De La Cruz, the communications director for the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which helps progressives nationwide launch and strategize direct democracy.

How did a state like Missouri, which is becoming a very red state, vote so overwhelmingly for “right to work” repeal?

For some people just certain issues sort of transcend parties. I think minimum wage is one. With something like the measure in Missouri to repeal the “right to work” law, if it’s messaged right and the public is educated correctly, that makes all the difference.

CLICK HERE to donate to campaigns working hard to pass progressive ballot initiatives!

Why don’t Democrats start campaigning on obviously popular issues? If they see so many people voting to increase the minimum wage, why not champion that, use that language?

Some lawmakers definitely see how powerful ballot measures are. But I think mostly with candidates they don’t really don’t focus on the issues until they see enough polling to see where it’s going to throw their support behind it, which is, which is too bad. They just sort of wait to see how the winds are gonna blow. But I think there are just some initiatives that people just really feel that they want and need. I think the one thing about ballot initiatives is that they’re often not thought of as being partisan.

Definitely right to work was partisan, but things like minimum wage, a lot of people just see it as extra money in their paychecks and not having all the money go to big corporations.

So what does BISC do, as a centralized strategy operation for progressive ballot measures?

We track new track statewide initiatives all year long and we update the list every two weeks. We do a lot of trainings where one of our staffers will go and talk to a group, working them through how the process works. The ballot process works differently in every state.

Sometimes it has to be done through a constitutional amendment. Sometimes you can collect signatures. Sometimes it has to be referred by the legislature. So there are all these different methods and people have to know exactly what the process is. If it’s collecting signatures, they need to know just how many they’re going to need and how many they need from different counties, because you can’t get all the signatures from one area. It’s got to be statewide.

You need to know the cost, like how much manpower do you think you’re going to need? It’s making sure that they are aware that this is not something that can happen quickly in most cases. You have to try to figure out what kind of support you have for it. To see if you can win, but even before you can win, if you can even collect enough signatures to start really campaigning. So there’s a lot of those. We do a lot of those, you know, we do a lot of educational trainings along those lines.

CLICK HERE to donate to campaigns working hard to pass progressive ballot initiatives!

I know that there have been more lawsuits over ballot measures and lawmakers, especially in GOP states, often don’t comply — see Maine and Medicaid — or repeal the measures, right?

Some states are fighting back to keep measures off ballots. North Carolina [Republicans are trying to trick voters into curtailing voting rights] and Michigan’s minimum wage initiative is in court. In Massachusetts, there’s a ballot measure to overturn the state’s anti-discrimination law against transgender people. Even in DC, it’s an example of a pretty heavily Democratic City Council that is trying to overturn a ballot measure that was approved in June during the primary election that would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers. It passed pretty overwhelmingly, but the DC City Council has introduced legislation that would undo it.

Some of these measures are launched by citizens, but there are often big campaigns around them, like in Missouri. What kind of bigger groups have you seen organizing these measures?

There are a couple of climate groups out west that we’re really not a part of, like NextGen. The Restaurant Opportunities group is active in a couple of states to raise the minimum wage. Definitely some unions support paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage as well. It’s a huge variety of groups. There are some really small groups. There’s a group in Florida, we’re really helping them with restoring the right to vote for former felons. That’s Second Chances Florida. They were formed solely to get this amendment on the ballot and then get it passed in Florida.

What kind of legwork does it take to get something on the ballot? How long does it usually take?

I’ll just give you an example. In Washington state, there’s an initiative on the ballot to tax polluters who emit fossil fuels and then they would use that money for clean jobs. That has been discussed for at least at least a couple of years before they even tried to put it on the ballot. I know that it was still being discussed like two years ago, just trying to generate the support and trying to figure out the educational campaign for that. Because that’s a tough one because the average citizen probably never even thinks about a carbon tax.

And I know that with the Florida initiative, you take some polls just to see like what the sentiment is among the residents, whether or not people do agree that ex-felons should be given the right to vote. So it’s a lot of education and just research first.

CLICK HERE to donate to campaigns working hard to pass progressive ballot initiatives!

Florida has a fully Republican state government. Let’s say Democrats flip a lot of legislatures and governorships this year and win power in a lot more states. How do you see ballot measures playing a role in an environment that’s more friendly to the issues they are working to pass?

I would definitely hope that it would be seen as a good leverage tool for citizens. The teachers in Arizona that went on strike earlier this year to get a raise in pay have really banded together to get an education measure on the ballot that would tax the wealthiest people in Arizona and use that money to pay for education. I know that banding together to raise their own pay gave them this idea. But it has not been popular at all. It just survived a legal challenge this week.

So getting all those signatures to get on the ballot definitely doesn’t always mean it’s super-popular or is going to pass.

I think sometimes just because it’s on the ballot, there’s a lot of education that needs to be done. There’s a measure on the Ohio ballot that would affect nonviolent drug offenders and I think that they barely got the number of signatures that they needed to get to get on the ballot. So I think that there’s still a lot of work there.

And people think that ballot measures are just really poorly worded, which they are, and the groups don’t write the ballot language. It’s the secretary of state’s offices and sometimes lawmakers start chiming in. So sometimes it makes no sense, so even if it’s really popular and on the ballot, it can be confusing to people and it’s always the last item on a ballot. So people might have supported it had they known it or if it had a different title or was just easier to read.

CLICK HERE to donate to campaigns working hard to pass progressive ballot initiatives!

What are the kinds of ballot measures you’re seeing the most this year?

Over the last year or two, the minimum wage has still been up there, but this year, we’re seeing a lot of gerrymandering initiatives. In most instances, redistricting is only done every 10 years, so it’s really interesting to see the number of gerrymandering initiatives on there to take the power away from partisan groups and give them to an independent commission. I think that’s a really interesting one to watch.

There’s not as much paid sick leave on the ballot statewide as I think people would have hoped. And I think some people are surprised that there’s not very many gun control measures on the ballot, especially given the shooting at the high school in Florida. Our take is that it was just too quick, there wasn’t enough time for people for people to get the measures on the ballot this year.

People have been really pressuring legislators on guns — maybe they don’t realize that ballot measures can be used for even that issue.

I think more people are definitely seeing the usefulness of ballot measures. I just think sometimes it’s a daunting task, especially if we want to do it statewide. But I think it’s all about educating people and getting the word out.

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