Whew! What a roller coaster of emotions we’ve all been on this election season! While all eyes have been on the presidential election, there are also local wins, hard work, and important progress to celebrate. The wins from this cycle came locally and from all around the country. They came in the form of ballot measures, record turnouts, and victories for representative democracy.
Local ballot measures
This election season, Solid Ground endorsed two local ballot measures: King County Proposition 1 (Harborview Health for All) and City of Seattle Proposition 1 (YES for Transit). Both measures are easily passing, with 76.5% and 80.4% of the vote respectively.
- King County Proposition 1/Harborview Health for All is a 20-year capital investment bond that will expand beds and services at Harborview, retrofit Harborview’s aging buildings, and open a new behavioral health center to expand capacity to support our community members who struggle with mental health and substance abuse disorders.
- Seattle Proposition 1/YES for Transit will invest in expanded bus service, reduced or free fares for students and people with low incomes, and repairs to the West Seattle Bridge.
Local representative democracy
While Solid Ground and Poverty Action don’t endorse candidates or parties, there is good news to share about how the state legislature has improved on representative democracy (i.e., having a legislature that more accurately reflects the people it represents).
“Building the world we want to see has always been an effort from the grassroots, because we represent us best. What we create in our communities, regardless of who is president, is the most hopeful and beautiful thing we got.” ~Corina Yballa, Community Organizer, Statewide Poverty Action Network
While the results are not yet certified, as of November 16, the Legislature will add several people of color and women to their ranks. In the State House, there will now be 19 legislators of color – and the Legislative Black Caucus will increase from five to nine members. The State Senate will add its only Black woman, who is also only the second Black woman in State Senate history. The legislature will also pick up five new women.
Voter turnout has broadly increased across the country. Both presidential candidates garnered the most votes ever recorded for a candidate in either party. Here in Washington State, we are on track to match our record turnout from 2008. That year, 84.6% of eligible voters cast a ballot. As of November 16, Washington turnout is at 83.7% with nearly 12,000 ballots left to count. A vibrant democracy is built on a foundation of civic participation, and high turnout is unequivocally good news for democracy.
Ballot measures across the country
While not every state’s ballot measures ushered in new rights or protections for people with low incomes, several states voted to increase minimum wage, regulate payday lenders, create paid family leave programs, or make their tax systems more equitable. This list is not exhaustive, but it includes some of our favorites!
- Florida voted to increase its minimum wage to $15/hour. Beginning in September 2021, the wage will increase to $10/hour and then increase by $1/hour until the wage reaches $15/hour in 2026. After that the wage will be adjusted annually to inflation.
- Nebraska voted at a whopping 83% to cap the interest rate on payday loans at 36% APR. While that interest rate is still outrageously expensive, it is considered by consumer advocates to be the gold standard for payday lending regulation.
- Colorado voted to create a paid family and medical leave system funded through a payroll tax that is split 50/50 between employees and employers. The system allows for four additional weeks of leave for pregnancy or childbirth complications.
- Arizona voted to impose a 3.5% tax on annual income over $250,000 for single people (or married people filing separately) or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly. The revenue raised by this tax will increase funding for public education.
Representative democracy across the country
In states across the country, voters added more women, people of color, and LGBTQIA folks.
- In New York, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones won seats in Congress, becoming the first openly gay Black members of Congress – a population of 535 people.
- New Mexico became just the second state to elect all women of color to the US House (Hawaii was first to do so in 1990). This year, Rep. Deb Haaland won her re-election and Yvette Herrell and Teresa Leger Fernandez each won seats in the state, making their delegation of three all women of color, specifically representing native and Latinx communities.
- Cori Bush won her election in Missouri, making her the first Black woman to represent the state in Congress.
- Delaware elected Sarah McBride, the nation’s first openly transgender State Senator, making her the highest ranking openly trans person in the US – and in Vermont, Taylor Small became the state’s first openly transgender legislator. Together these two candidates mean there are now five “out” trans state legislators in the US.
Even with these wins, there is work to do! Regardless of who is in any office, the organizing capacity we have built over the past four years must continue. We must continue making strides toward a democracy that reflects and listens to our communities. As Poverty Action’s Community Organizer Corina Yballa reminded our team on election day, “Building the world we want to see has always been an effort from the grassroots, because we represent us best. What we create in our communities, regardless of who is president, is the most hopeful and beautiful thing we got.” Onward!