Minimum Wage to Confederate Flags: The 2020 Results of Statewide Referendums

Azusa Lippit, Assistant Managing Editor

As the aftermath of Election Day settled in across the country, many found themselves surprised by the results of several notable down-ballot measures. In the state of Florida, voters passed Amendment 2 to the State Constitution, guaranteeing a statewide minimum wage of $15 an hour by the year 2026. Raised incrementally each year, a vote “yes” on this question moved the minimum wage past its current amount of $8.56 per hour, setting a clear goal for the increase. 60.82% of voters voted yes on this amendment. CRLS junior Keefer Glenshaw told the Register Forum that he would be “ecstatic” as a partially Floridian teenager, having worked a minimum wage job himself. “I very much think it’s a good step forward for the state and a good example to set,” Glenshaw explained, “The minimum wage should definitely be raised in all states.”

In another piece of progressive legislation, the previous state flag of Mississippi was voted to be adapted by 71.39% of voters. The flag previously displayed a confederate battle cross in the top left corner, replaced now by a centered magnolia flower and the words “In God We Trust.” Anna Von Rosenstiel ’21 reflected on what this change might mean for residents of Mississippi and the country, stating, “I’m not a person of color, so I could never understand the pain of having a confederate symbol on my flag, but I think it is really important that they changed the flag because I can imagine how hurtful it can be. I also think it is a testament that there is change happening in the South.”

With California’s ballot measures came contrasting decisions for two disenfranchised groups. Proposition 17, passed by 59% of voters, granted the ability to vote to those convicted of felony on parole. However, Proposition 18, which would have allowed 17 year-olds to vote in primary elections, was prevented by 55% of voters. Senior Sofia Mrowka expressed disappointment in the outcome of Proposition 18, stating, “I think lowering the voting age is critically important. People who pay taxes deserve the right to vote for the person who represents them and whose salary quite literally stems from their tax payer dollars.” Though only defeated by a close margin, primary voting for 17 year-olds in California may not receive another opportunity for definitive action in the near future.

I think lowering the voting age is critically important. People who pay taxes deserve the right to vote for the person who represents them and whose salary quite literally stems from their tax payer dollars.”

— Sofia Mrowka '21

Surprised by many outcomes of state referendum questions across the nation, English teacher Ms. Kathy Nyholm wondered if there was a shift of focus due to the imminent panic surrounding turnout for purely presidential voting, “While it was obviously a very important decision, [the presidential election] did take away from some of the focus on these other measures which are so important and also have a very real impact on people’s lives.” The state of California also sided with large companies like Uber and Lyft in choosing to classify their drivers as contractors rather than employees, which would change the labor and wage policies extended to them. Ms. Nyholm recognized, “Whether [the drivers] make a living wage and are classified as an employee or not, these are things that have a huge impact on people’s day-to-day lives. My hope going forward is that as it’s more calm, people will be able to place more focus on these other issues as well.”

English teacher Mr. Brendon Snyder sought a reason for the surprising outcomes of several state ballot measures, and what they might signify about the country’s position. “When the voters are pushing back on some of these measures in California, which is supposed to be a very blue state like Massachusetts, and you put that together with the fact that half of the country voted for Donald Trump, it serves as a temperature reading of where we are as a country.” Mr. Snyder also found that the advertising for certain ballot questions were aimed in an unusual manner, “Some of the advertising campaigns opposing [Question 1 in Massachusetts] were really trying to make people afraid, which I think can definitely be a successful campaign strategy.”

Ms. Nyholm agreed, sharing, “I know from a family connection that there was a lot of money poured into [Question 1] and maybe even some misinformation.” She continued, “It does make me wonder [about] the information that was shared and what impact that might have had on people for any of these questions. I would love to see more facts over emotional appeal, and to be able to trust people to decide [on what to vote for] based on information.”