Election 2013: What we’re watching

BY Bridget Bowman  November 4, 2013 at 3:55 PM EDT

Voting booths in Waterloo, Iowa

Voters in six states will decide on more than two dozen ballot measures on Tuesday. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The races for the governors’ mansions in New Jersey and Virginia have garnered national attention, but polls indicate that there probably won’t be any surprises in those contests. So here are some other states that we’ll be watching on Election Day:

WASHINGTON

In the small city of SeaTac, Wash., voters are considering a measure to raise the minimum wage to the highest level in the country. If passed, Proposition 1 will raise the minimum wage in SeaTac to $15 an hour — twice the federal level.

The New York Times’ Kirk Johnson and Steven Greenhouse reported that the initiative could have national ramifications.

“Unions targeted SeaTac and managed the signature-gathering process that put Proposition 1 on the ballot,” they wrote, “viewing it as a potential model for raising wages and mobilizing workers in other parts of the country.”

Voters in Washington are also considering Initiative 522, which would “require foods produced entirely or partly with genetic engineering, as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale in Washington.”

Wendy Underhill, a policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures, explained that labeling genetically modified organisms, or GMO’s, “might easily be a trend” since a number of states proposed legislation that would label GMO’s in 2013, although none of the bills passed. “If it passes that might be a forecast” for future GMO measures, said Underhill.

Also in Washington, a special election could affect party control in the state house. Reid Wilson of The Washington Post detailed the special state senate election. Wilson reported that it has “become the most expensive legislative race in Washington’s history.” Outside groups including Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association have made million-dollar contributions to the race.

This election could determine which party wields the power in the state senate. Morgan Cullen of the NCSL explained that in Washington the Democrats have a numerical majority in the state senate. However, the Republicans hold the power because two Democrats are caucusing with the Republicans, creating a majority coalition.

While Wilson argued that the special election “could determine whether Republicans gain a lasting foothold in an otherwise very blue state,” Cullen said that this election might not be very influential. “It probably won’t have any impact,” said Cullen, noting that Republicans already have control of the state senate.

NEW JERSEY

A minimum wage increase will also be on the ballot in New Jersey, but in the form of a referendum. In February the state assembly decided to send the measure to the voters, which would amend the state constitution to increase the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour and require the wage to adjust to cost of living increases each year. If passed, New Jersey would become the 19th state with a minimum wage above the federal level.

COLORADO

Last year Colorado became one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and on Tuesday voters will decide how that use is regulated. Voters can accept or reject the state legislature’s decision to impose a sales and excise tax on retail marijuana. The revenue from the taxes would fund the construction of public schools and the regulation and enforcement of marijuana.

All told, voters in six states will vote on more than two dozen ballot measures this year. While these measures cover a wide range of issues, there are far fewer ballot initiatives and referenda than in a presidential or mid-term election year.