State Ballot Measures: How Women Fared in 2016

Looking up at the inside of the dome from the ground floor. Photos from a walk through the State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

Photo credit: Wisconsin State Capitol by Phil Roeder. Flickr. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License Generic.

November 16, 2016

There was more than just candidates on the ballot in several states on Election Day 2016. Ballot measures played an important role in enacting policies that support women and their families thanks in part to the advocacy of AAUW members, who advocated for their passage. AAUW’s national office and AAUW state leaders worked together to disseminate voter education materials, publish letters to the editor, and advocate for AAUW’s priority issues on the ballot. Here’s how AAUW-supported initiatives fared.

Wins for Women and Working Families

AAUW is committed to promoting the economic, social, and physical well-being of all persons and we were pleased to see several worker-friendly policies advanced around the country.

Voters in four states elected to give workers a raise. Arizona and Maine both voted to increase the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour by 2020, while Washington approved a raise to $13.50 an hour by 2020 and Colorado called for $12 by 2020 with the wage tied to the cost of living after that. In South Dakota, a ballot initiative that would have lowered the minimum wage for non-tipped employees under 18 was roundly rejected by 70 percent of voters.

The Arizona and Washington measures also extended paid sick leave to many workers. Employees in Washington will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked beginning in 2018, while in Arizona employees will earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with limits based upon the size of the employer.

Gains and Losses in Civil Rights

Alaskans voted nearly two to one to embrace a progressive new voter registration reform. Under the new law, Alaskans who sign up to receive their annual payouts from the state’s oil wealth trust will be automatically added to the state’s voter rolls. These results make Alaska the sixth state to have approved some form of automatic voter registration.

Missouri voters rejected Amendment 3, an underhanded effort to weaken public education that would have potentially opened a door to school vouchers. Though billed as a cigarette tax, money raised from Amendment 3 could have been used to fund private and religious schools, which are not bound by civil rights and accountability standards.

Unfortunately, Missouri voters did approve a strict voter identification requirement. Amendment 6 won 63 percent to 37 percent and will require voters to present a photo ID issued either by the state, the federal government, or the U.S. military.

A Victory for Public Education Funding

By a narrow margin Maine voters approved Question 2, a measure to tax the state’s highest earners to raise money for education. The adoption of Question 2 increases state funding for K–12 public education by creating a three percent surcharge on households with incomes greater than $200,000, which should raise approximately $157 million per year for public schools.


Chalk outline of the word VOTE.
AAUW Recommendations on 2016 Ballot Initiatives

See how election results measure up to AAUW’s recommendations.

Woman in jean jacket covered in voter pins
AAUW Voter Education

Find out what AAUW is doing to engage women across the country in the political process.

Young women with backs to camera holding U.S. flag over their shoulders and watching the sun set.
AAUW Reacts to Election Day Results

Find out more about how AAUW will continue to advance our mission after the 2016 presidential election.

By:   |   November 16, 2016


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