There are a huge number of really fascinating races and referenda on the ballot across the country this year, and many of the most interesting — and most important — remain too close to call. In this post I’ll be doing a state-by-state rundown of the results I’ll be looking for, and the ones friends have tipped me to on Facebook and Twitter. (If you’ve got others, please share in comments.)



  • Proposition 30. This is the biggie, as I’ve written before. It would establish a small, temporary sales tax hike (0.25%) and temporary income tax increases for the wealthy in order to close the state’s huge budget deficit in education. If it fails, UC tuition — already ridiculously high — is likely to rise another 20%, while Cal State and community college enrollment will be slashed. With recent polling putting the yes vote on 30 just under fifty percent, it’s likely to be close.
  • Proposition 32 is an attempt to limit unions’ political power under the guise of getting corporate money out of politics. It’s polling badly, but not horribly, and has been all the way through.
  • Proposition 34 would end the death penalty in the state. With conflicting, close poll data, it’s impossible to call. (There are more than 700 inmates on California’s death row, though there is currently a death-penalty moratorium in the state.) One horribly sad wrinkle — some death row inmates oppose Prop 34 because capital defendants have greater rights to state-funded appellate representation than their non-capital peers. Take away the threat of execution, and you stunt their ability to challenge their convictions.
  • Proposition 35 is a ban on human trafficking and sex slavery, and appears likely to pass by a large margin. Some very smart people, though, fear that it could have extremely harmful consequences to sex workers, including those it intends to support.
  • Proposition 36, which would curtail California’s “three strikes” law, looks set to pass.
  • Proposition 38, an unappealing alternative version of Prop 30, will surely fail … but it could drag 30 down with it.


  • Amendment 64, which would legalize and regulate marijuana, has been leading throughout the cycle, but the polls have been tightening. Could go either way.


  • 18th Congressional District incumbent Allen West is a stone cold weirdo and all kinds of bad news. The polls say he’ll likely eke out a win, but it’d be fun if he lost.



  • It’s a Republican-leaning state, but Richard Mourdock’s October comments about rape pregnancies being part of “God’s plan” seem to have hurt him badly in his Senate race. Democrat Joe Donnelly has led in two recent polls.


  • David Wiggins, a state supreme court justice who voted with the pro-marriage equality majority in Iowa’s same-sex marriage ruling, is facing a recall campaign.


  • In Question 1, one of four marriage equality referenda nationally, the voters of Maine will consider repeal of a 2009 referendum banning same-sex marriage. Polling is looking good, but SSM referenda have historically tended to underperform polls. There’s reason for optimism, but no more.
  • Maine’s US Senate election is a weird one this year, with former governor Angus King running as an independent and refusing to say which party he’ll caucus with if he wins. State Democrats are mostly counting on him to go D, though, and have largely abandoned the Democratic candidate so as not to split liberal votes and give the Republican an opening. (This would be a D pickup, following the retirement of semi-centrist Republican Olympia Snowe.)


  • Question 4 in Maryland is a mini DREAM Act, ensuring in-state tuition in public higher education for undocumented students who meet state residency requirements. I haven’t seen enough polling to say which way it’ll go, but it seems like a bit of an uphill battle.
  • Maryland also has Question 6, another same-sex marriage referendum, with perhaps the best polling data of any of the four. I’ll be out leafleting for this one with my daughters on election day.
  • Long-term Republican congressmember (and Tea Partier) Roscoe Bartlett, one of the state’s two GOP House incumbents, is in a tough race because of redistricting.


  • Incumbent senator Scott Brown has been leading strong progressive Elizabeth Warren for most of the race, but she’s starting to open up a lead — she’s currently at +3.5% in the RCP polling average.
  • Question 2, the legalization of physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, polling very strong.
  • Question 3, medical marijuana legalization, is also looking like a winner.


  • Proposal 2, which would add collective bargaining rights protections to the state constitution.


  • Amendment 1 is the country’s only attempt to place a ban on same-sex marriage in a state constitution this cycle. Polling has shown the amendment narrowly failing, but it’s really too close to call.
  • Amendment 2 would write a voter ID requirement into the state constitution. A similar law recently passed the state legislature but was vetoed by the governor. A mid-October poll showed it leading 53-40.
  • Michele Bachmann’s probably going to win. But it’ll be single digits, and a guy can dream.


  • This is one state where I’d be happy to see a Democrat lose a senate race, and with war criminal and anti-student university president Bob Kerrey trailing by double digits, I’ll likely get my wish.

New Jersey

  • Bond referendum for capital improvement at the state’s higher ed facilities.


  • Measure 80, the most dramatic of the country’s three pot legalization initiatives, is also polling the worst. Likely to fail.

Puerto Rico

  • Puerto Rico has a two-part status referendum asking residents whether they want to continue as a territory, become a state, or pursue independence. Statehood led a recent poll with 48% support.


  • Referendum 74, the last of four same-sex marriage referenda this cycle, is an attempt to overturn a marriage equality law passed by the legislature. It’s currently too close to call.
  • Initiative 502, which would legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana, is showing the strongest polling data of the country’s three pending pot referenda. Passage would set up a showdown between the state and the federal government, which independently criminalizes pot.
  • Washington’s Initiative 1240 is a particularly aggressive charter school proposal.
  • Though it’s going to be a blowout in the presidential election, Washington also has a close governor’s race.


  • Tammy Baldwin is a solid progressive and a friend to students, and if she wins this race she’ll be the first and only openly gay senator of any gender in US history. She’s ahead or tied in each of the five most recent polls in her race, but only up by an average of 2.2 points. I think she’ll win, and I’ll be cheering hard when she does.