By Omar L. Gallaga
While most of the nation’s eyes were on a close presidential race and several key U.S. Senate races this week, several propositions, referendums, and amendments across multiple states and Puerto Rico could have a profound impact on the lives of Latinos.
In states with large Latino populations including California, Arizona, and Florida, new laws that will raise the minimum wage, legalize recreational use of marijuana, or restore voting rights to former inmates were approved by voters in Tuesday’s elections.
Some laws that were up for a vote were rejected, including one that would have affected workers for services such as Uber and Lyft, and a measure that would have allowed Californian 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and some special elections.
Here is a roundup of some of those measures and new laws that are most likely to affect Latinos:
- In Florida, a long campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 was successful. The new hike will raise the wage from $8.56 to $10 next September, then a dollar per year until 2026. It is expected to affect at least 2.5 million workers in Florida, about a quarter of the state’s workforce. There are about 5 million Latinos living in Florida.
- California had a wide range of propositions on the ballot this year, including Proposition 17, which allows former inmates on parole the right to vote. Tens of thousands of people will now be allowed to vote. Proposition 20, which would have toughened some criminal penalties, was voted down. California voters also decided not to grant workers for ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber full-time worker status.
- In Nevada, Question 4 will add a constitutional amendment protecting voters from “Being intimidated, threatened or coerced” and to have equal access to election systems with no discrimination. Nevada now has the nation’s first Voter’s Bill of Rights in its constitution.
- Puerto Rico took another step toward U.S. statehood with the passage of the Puerto Rican Statehood Referendum. It passed 52 to 48 percent.
- Oregon was among several states to pass laws decriminalizing certain drugs. Measure 110 also establishes addiction treatment in the state. Some states including Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Montana passed recreational-use laws while South Dakota and Mississippi will allow for legal distribution of medical marijuana.
- Two laws that would have affected young Latinos were rejected in California: one of them would have lifted the ban on affirmative action at colleges and workplaces. Another rejected Proposition would have allowed 17-year-olds to vote during primary season if they were to turn 18 by the general election date.
- In a measure seen as symbolic, Alabama, Colorado, and Florida passed amendments limiting voting to “Citizens of the U.S. who are 18 years of age or older.” It was widely seen as a way of ensuring that noncitizens would not be granted the right to vote in the future.
According to Ballotpedia, there were no major 2020 propositions across the country specifically dealing with immigration.