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There's A Lot at Stake for Women on Election Day Tomorrow

Election Day is tomorrow, November 4 - and this year, there is much at stake for women, people of color, and young people.

In many states, voters will directly decide several critical issues in their states - from raising the minimum wage to paid sick days, from abortion access and women's civil rights to decriminalization of marijuana - through ballot measures.

In Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota voters will have the opportunity to increase their state's minimum wage at the polls tomorrow. The current federal minimum is $7.25 per hour, placing some families well below the poverty line. Women and minorities disproportionately make up minimum wage jobs, and would hugely benefit from an increase in wages. Massachusetts voters may also decide to pass statewide, paid sick days for both part-time and full-time workers. If passed by the voters, Measure 4 would allow the almost 1 million workers in Massachusetts who can't earn a single hour of paid sick time, to earn up to 5 days of paid sick leave per calendar year.

Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee each have anti-choice measures on the ballot that would effectively outlaw abortion in all circumstances, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life or health of the mother. Tennessee's Amendment 1 would take the right of privacy for reproductive rights out of the state constitution and give local legislators the power to restrict access to abortion, and outlaw many forms of birth control, such as the IUD or the pill. North Dakota's Measure 1, a "personhood amendment" would create an "inalienable right to life" starting "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. Similarly, Colorado's Amendment 67 would include "unborn human beings" in the definition of "person" and "child" in the state's criminal code and Wrongful Death Act, and would also ban all abortions - even in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's life or health - if the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

The language of both Measure 1 and Amendment 67 is dangerously vague, and both proposed changes could eliminate or restrict access to some common forms of birth control (such as the pill and IUD), deny pregnant women with life-threatening illnesses access to treatment, ban in-vitro fertilization, and subject all women who have miscarriages - and their medical providers - to criminal investigations.

Oregon is the only state in this election voting on a civil rights bill for women's equality. While we are still waiting to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), giving women equality under the United States constitution, Oregon voters will decide directly whether to adopt a state constitutional ERA. If passed, Measure 89 would guarantee all Oregonians equal rights under the state constitution, regardless of sex. This measure would be a boon to women fighting employment, wage, benefit, or educational discrimination, or women seeking protection against violence, as they would be protected by the full weight of the state constitution.

Marijuana use is on the ballot for three states this election. In Alaska, Measure 2 is on the ballot for the decriminalization of marijuana. Oregon is proposing a similar ballot in Measure 91, which would legalize recreational marijuana use. Young people and people of color are more likely to be arrested for marijuana use. Decriminalizing marijuana may help prevent unnecessary criminalization of these communities. it will prevent these communities. In addition, Florida will be voting on Amendment 2 which would allow for the use of marijuana when recommended by a physician. Marijuana has many medical benefits and should be included as a part of comprehensive healthcare.

When going to the polls to vote tomorrow, remember that many voter ID laws have changed since the 2012 election. To find out what you'll need to vote, visit our state-by-state voter information guide. For more about state ballot measures, click here.

Media Resources: Feminist Campus Ballot Measures to Watch; Feminist Campus State-by-State Voter Guide; Ballotpedia; Feminist Newswire 10/17/14; Yes on 4 Massachusetts; No on One Tennessee; North Dakotans Against Measure 1; Vote No 67 Campaign

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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