Minimum Wage on the Ballot

There’s been a lot of discussion, some of it here, about the minimum wage as a potential “wedge issue” for 2014. But most of the talk has been about its impact on the general political climate. As Pamela Prah notes at Stateline, the issue could well be on the ballot in a number of places:

Organizers are trying to get measures on the November’s ballot to raise the minimum wage in the GOP-dominated states of Alaska, Idaho, Michigan and South Dakota. Supporters in Nebraska are likewise weighing a ballot measure since the minimum wage effort died in the legislature, which is officially nonpartisan.

States with split political control where minimum wage ballot proposals are circulating include Arkansas and Missouri, where the governors are Democrats and the legislatures are GOP-led. Efforts also are underway in the blue state of Massachusetts to put a measure to voters if the legislature fails to raise the minimum wage.

You will note the pattern of unresponsive legislatures, most of them Republican-controlled.

The history of minimum wage ballot initiatives is pretty encouraging:

Since 1996, proposed increases have been on statewide ballots 15 times in 11 states— and all but two of them were successful, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a Washington, D.C., group that supports a higher wage.

And there could be a bonus:

In the past, minimum wage measures on the ballot during a nonpresidential election year have increased turnout among Democrats and swing voters, said Josh Levin, the center’s vice president.

So a higher minimum wage could represent both a “wedge” issue for swing voters and a turnout booster for “base” voters, not to mention a tangible prize for workers. What’s not to like?

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.