Today’s News & Commentary — November 7, 2018
Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives in a high-stakes election last night — with tremendous consequences for working people and economic justice. Democrats netted 26 seats in the House, giving the party a new check on the Trump Administration and the power to block GOP-led legislation. As expected, Republicans maintained their Senate majority after defeating Democratic incumbents in North Dakota, Missouri, and Indiana. Further down the ballot, Democrats gained seven Governor’s seats — including in Wisconsin, where infamously anti-labor Governor Scott Walker was ousted by Democrat Tony Evers, the state superintendent of public schools. Democrats also flipped control of several key state legislatures, including New Hampshire chambers, Minnesota’s House, and Maine’s Senate.
Meanwhile, progressive ballot initiatives triumphed across the nation. Missouri and Arkansas voted to raise the minimum wage last night. Missouri voters approved Proposition B, which would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023 — a dramatic raise for more than 600,000 Missouri workers currently earning the current minimum wage of $7.85 an hour. Arkansas voters raised the wage to $11 an hour by 2021, from a current minimum wage of $8.50 an hour (and will be raised to $9.25 in January). Arkansas and Missouri are joining at least 18 states that have raised their wage in the last year, including other red and purple states like Arizona, Colorado, and Maine. Missouri’s vote follows a resounding win for labor in the same state on an August ballot initiative that overturned the state’s right-to-work law, showing once again that when pro-labor issues are on the ballot, they can win, even in deep red states. These wins may embolden progressives hoping to invest in putting economic justice directly to voters.
Working-class people also won several other victories in ballot initiatives across the country. Highlights include Florida, which voted overwhelmingly to pass Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to nearly 1.4 million people formerly convicted of felonies, and strong wins for Medicaid Expansion and Massachusetts, which voted to uphold transgender civil rights protections. Idaho, Nebraska, Utah voted by resounding margins to expand the Medicaid program, expanding health insurance to nearly 300,000 people. Democrat Janet Mills also won Maine’s Governor’s race, all but guaranteeing that the state will expand Medicaid after former Republican Governor Paul LePage refused to implement a ballot initiative to do so in 2017.
A majority of Americans say that election day should be a holiday, saying it would help people access the polls. In many states, people are guaranteed time off from work to vote — but in many states, people are forced to wait longer than they are guaranteed off from work. For example, New York state law gives workers the right to two hours of paid leave to vote, but many voters had to wait up up to four hours in line. Voters faced hours-long lines to vote across the nation, including in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, North Dakota, Indiana, and North Carolina.