2022 State Elections Toolkit
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Key Takeaways:

  • In this upcoming election, voters will decide on over 130 statewide ballot measures.
  • We preview a handful of statewide ballot measures below, and while these issues differ in substance, they center around individual autonomy and freedom.
  • Workers’ rights in Illinois may be drastically expanded through an inherent right to collective bargaining, while five states will address a provision permitting involuntary servitude in their constitution, and Iowa and Oregon each grapple with firearm restrictions.

In this upcoming election, voters will decide on a wide range of issues including taxes, reproductive health care, marijuana legalization, and voting rights. We preview a handful of statewide ballot measures below, and while these issues differ in substance, they center around individual autonomy and freedom. Workers’ rights in Illinois may be drastically expanded through an inherent right to collective bargaining, while five states will address a provision permitting involuntary servitude in their constitution, and Iowa and Oregon each grapple with firearm restrictions. Iowa is seeking to expand the right to bear arms while Oregon is focused on permits for purchasing firearms. 

Illinois could expand organizing rights for all workers 

Illinois voters will decide on only one statewide ballot measure this November, Amendment 1, the Right to Collective Bargaining Measure, which would add collective bargaining rights for all public and private sector employees into the state constitution. A “yes” vote on this ballot measure would establish a state constitutional right for employees to “organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.” Specifically, these representatives can negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions, and more generally can “protect their economic welfare and safety at work.” The ballot measure, if passed, would prohibit laws from being enacted that may interfere with employees’ right to organize and bargain collectively, including laws requiring union membership for employment. 

Illinois would become the fourth state, joining New York, Hawaii, and Missouri, to enshrine collective bargaining for all employees into the state constitution. Opposition to the ballot measure concerns increased power for unions to bargain for deals which could overrule state law. Opponents worry these deals may curtail plans for government consolidation and pension reform which would prevent tax cuts. 

Iowa and Oregon diverge on Firearm Restrictions

Access to firearms continues to be a heated topic around the country, and two states will address concerns in opposing ways. Iowa’s Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment would enshrine access to firearms into the state constitution. If passed, language would be inserted into the constitution stating, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Any alleged violations of the right to keep and bear arms would be subject to strict scrutiny in court. Proponents of the ballot measure view it as a long time coming, as Iowa is one of only six states without similar language in its constitution. Opponents argue that the measure may provide for legal challenges to firearm restrictions like background checks and permit requirements.

Oregon’s Measure 114 would institute significant restrictions for those seeking to purchase firearms in the state. If passed, people seeking to purchase firearms must first receive a permit from local law enforcement. To receive the permit, a person must submit a photo ID, get fingerprinted and photographed by the permit agent, pay a fee, complete a criminal background check, complete a firearm safety course, and not be prohibited from owning a firearm. The measure provides an additional provision for prohibiting the manufacture, importation, possession, sale, purchase, use, or transfer of ammunition magazines capable of holding ten or more rounds. Any of these offenses would be classified as a Class A misdemeanor. The Oregon State Police would play a key role in facilitating firearm programs if the measure passes, including establishing a program specified in the measure called the Firearms Permit to Purchase Program. The department would administer the permitting process.

Five States seek removal of obsolete constitutional language

Section 1 of the Thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” A number of states adopted similar language in the Civil War’s aftermath, seemingly permitting enslavement or involuntary servitude as criminal punishment. In recent years, states have focused on removing this language from state constitutions. In 2022, five states — Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont — will consider repealing this language around slavery or involuntary servitude from their state constitutions.

  • Alabama’s Recompiled Constitution Ratification Question asks voters whether to ratify the Constitution of Alabama 2022, a rewrite that “removes all racist language” from the document. Section 32 of Article I, the provision from the 1901 version of the document providing for involuntary servitude as a punishment of a crime, would be among the portions removed.

  • Voters in Louisiana will decide on Amendment 7, the Remove Involuntary Servitude as Punishment for a Crime from Constitution Amendment. Louisiana’s ballot measure would remove the provision allowing involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime. A new provision stating that prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude “does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of justice” would be added. 

  • Measure 112 in Oregon would remove slavery and involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime. The measure would add in a section prompting state courts, parole agencies, and probation agencies to order convicted persons to “engage in education, counseling, treatment, community service, or other alternatives to incarceration, as part of a sentencing for a crime.”

  • Tennessee voters will decide on whether or not add language to the state constitution preventing slavery and involuntary servitude in their state. Under the Remove Slavery as Punishment for Crime from Constitution Amendment, Tennessee qualifies their language in allowing inmates to still work if they have been duly convicted.

  • Vermont’s Proposal 2 would add “slavery and indentured servitude in any form prohibited” to the state constitution.  A provision stating no person can serve as a slave, servant, or apprentice in any case including “the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like” would instead be placed in the constitution.