State Ballot Measures: How Women Fared in 2014

Patty sits at her desk and makes a phone call.
November 06, 2014


We won!

On Election Day, AAUW’s and friends’ voices were heard loud and clear on ballot initiatives on issues including the minimum wage, paid sick days, and equal rights. Here’s the rundown on how our issues fared in state elections.

Giving Workers and Women a Raise!

Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois*, Nebraska, and South Dakota strongly supported minimum wage increases. In fact, in each and every state, (red and blue) the measures received more votes than the winning candidates running statewide. Hundreds of thousands of workers will now be eligible, starting in 2015, for an hourly raise.

*Illinois’ vote was nonbinding.

Paid Sick Days Pass, Too

In Massachusetts, Question 4 passed, giving more workers the family friendly benefit of paid sick days. Employers with 11 or more employees will need to allow full- and part-time workers one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. (Other local jurisdictions in the country also passed paid sick days.)

Protecting Choice, Promoting Equal Rights

Voters resoundingly said no to a personhood measure in North Dakota and rejected a similar initiative again in Colorado. Illinois voters passed an advisory ballot initiative requiring health insurance plans to cover prescription birth control. Unfortunately, we had a setback in Tennessee, where Amendment 1, which strips the constitutional protection for access to abortion, prevailed. We’ll remain vigilant about the issue there and look for opportunities to restore women’s rights to make private medical decisions. In Oregon, we passed the Equal Rights for Women Initiative, which closely mirrors the language of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution. We won with close to 64 percent of the vote — this represents a positive step forward in the national effort for ERA ratification.

Outreach Matters

Together with our AAUW state leaders, we disseminated critical and timely information about the 2014 ballot measures to supporters and voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee. AAUW mailed postcards to women voters in Arkansas, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Tennessee to let them know our position on these critical questions and, for the first time, used robocall technology to send recorded get-out-the-vote calls to infrequent voters in key states. The messages came from AAUW volunteer leaders in those states. We reached hundreds of thousands of people in target states between the two efforts and also made live calls to Arkansas voters on Election Day from our Washington, D.C., office.


These are significant victories, and that’s good news not just for women and workers but for the country. Based on these election results, the country has entered a more progressive era when it comes to ballot initiatives. For many years in many states, ballot measures were used to pass referenda that harmed women and communities of color. That’s not to say some regressive initiatives didn’t pass in some places this year. But the pendulum has swung back, and advocates for women and girls, like AAUW, were better positioned not only to stop regressive initiatives but to proactively use the power of ballot measures to advance key public policy priorities that have been long stalled in Congress.

This post was written by AAUW Field Director Patty Snee.

By:   |   November 06, 2014

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