The Big Votes We'll Be Watching on Election Day

Gif: Gizmodo

Tuesday, November 6th, Americans will head to the ballot box to exercise their civic duty and put our weird little democratic experiment through all new tests that we’ll debate for the next two years. We’ll be tracking numerous races and ballot measures that have broad implications in the tech, science, and energy sectors, and you can too!

If you’re in a state where the outcome big congressional or gubernatorial race is all but certain, there are still state and local ballot measures to consider. With the state of D.C. politics, local government is more important than ever. And if you’re in a swing state, keep in mind that the Senate voted to save net neutrality back in May, but that effort has been stymied by Republicans in the House, which is up for grabs on Tuesday. We’re highlighting some of the biggest voting initiatives in our wheelhouse below, but this is far from the only list you should read—it’s all important.

The World’s First Voter-Approved Carbon Fee

Voters in Washington have a chance to make history tomorrow. Putting a price on the carbon dioxide oil companies and other polluters emit has never been approved by voters anywhere in the world, but that could all change with Initiative 1631, a carbon fee that would force polluters to pay for their emissions beginning in 2020. A carbon tax was previously on the ballot in 2016, but it went down and organizers were criticized for not doing enough outreach and coalition building. This year’s proposal is retooled to address those issues, and we’ll see if it’s enough to put it over the top. — Brian Kahn



Please, keep calm and carry on voting—there’s no reason to believe this election will suffer any kind of hacking that changes vote totals. But everyone will be watching to see if anything comes out of the foreign penetration attempts and screwed-up voting machines that we’ve seen in the run-up to election day.

The most immediate threat is coming from reckless politicians like Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R). In 2016, Kemp refused help from the Department of Homeland Security in protecting Georgia’s voting system as it gradually became clear that Russian influence efforts favored pushing the Trump campaign to American voters. This year, as his race for Georgia’s governor against Stacey Abrams has tightened and courts strike down his efforts to prevent hundreds of thousands of Georgians from voting, he’s begun to scream bullshit about the Democrats hacking the election. — Rhett Jones

San Francisco’s homeless tax that has tech billionaire’s beefing

As the tech sector booms in San Francisco and prices-out everyone who isn’t an anointed god, it’s homeless problem has exploded. So-called Prop C asks voters if they’d like to tax the biggest companies in town less than 1 percent in order to raise around $300 million to provide services for the homeless, get people off the street, and clean up the city’s poop problem. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has been on a crusade to pass the measure, up his own taxes, and help the homeless. Many of his fellow tech titans have been fighting him tooth and nail over it. These arguments have often spilled out in tweets, with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey publicly telling Benioff that he doesn’t like Prop C because companies that are bigger than his (!) might have an unfair advantage. When you go to the ballot box, just know that, if Prop C passes, only rich people will be worried about which rich guy is paying more, and most people will be happy to avoid stepping in poop. — Rhett Jones


Fracking in Colorado

There are two big ballot initiatives in Colorado dealing with oil and gas. Amendment 74 is a seemingly innocuous change to the state constitution that would allow property owners to request compensation from the state for any regulation or law that affects property values. But the amendment has been largely written and bankrolled by the oil and gas industry, and environmentalists have criticized it as a bid to avoid more regulations.


The oil and gas industry, meanwhile, is opposed to Proposition 112, a ballot measure that would increase the minimum distance of fracking wells and the noxious gases they can spew from property and vulnerable locations. Right now, the distance is 1,000 feet for high occupancy buildings (it’s only 500 feet for homes and 350 from playgrounds), but the proposition would increase that to 2,500 feet for all occupied buildings. — Brian Kahn

The Wisconsin governor who was outfoxed by Foxconn wants to be governor again

There are many reasons Scott Walker’s two terms as governor of Wisconsin have been a disaster, but none have been as high-profile as his “boondoggle” deal with Chinese manufacturing giant Foxconn. The company is best known for building Apple products and reportedly playing a role driving its workers in China to suicide. Along with then-newly elected President Trump, Walker spent months working out a deal to bring a Foxconn factory to his state that would allegedly provide 250,000 jobs. In exchange for a $10 billion investment, the company has negotiated more than $4 billion in state subsidies—and everything has been a disaster. Manufacturers in Wisconsin are already exempt from paying taxes, so the money comes as a direct payout, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau found the state won’t see a return on investment until 2042, if at all.


On November 6, the Wall Street Journal reported that Foxconn can’t find enough workers for its Wisconsin plant and is considering sending in employees from China. In a statement to Gizmodo, the company denied the report. One truth is clear, Walker is no brain-genius.

Permanent Daylight Savings Time in California

If the switching Daylight Savings Time each year is saving any energy, it’s almost completely negligible. The voters of California have a chance to join Arizona in ignoring this hellscape in which we descend into darkness in the fall and we should all support them in breaking away. — Rhett Jones


Man who disregarded voters’ personal data in “voter fraud” effort wants to be governor of Kansas

Like many of his Republican colleagues, Kris Kobach has a habit of taking donations from white nationalists but he swears his voter suppression efforts are not motivated by racism. As the Secretary of State in Kansas, Kobach will be overseeing the integrity of his own bid for governor while he’s made national headlines running the White House’s voter fraud commission that couldn’t find voter fraud but was good at mishandling voter data. When he’s not ignoring cybersecurity and invading the privacy of voters, he’s accidentally leaking the last four digits of thousands of state employees’ Social Security numbers—including his own. His opponent, Laura Kelly, faces a tight race because she’s not willing to gut the budget for a tax cut giveaway. — Rhett Jones


Funding clean energy in Portland

The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Initiative would tax city retailers that make more than $1 billion a year a 1 percent surcharge on earnings from retail sales in the city to fund clean energy development and job training. This is an actual step toward the “just transition” away from fossil fuels so many environmentalists talk about. The Portland NAACP, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, and the Coalition of Communities of Color launched the ballot measure, making sure it wouldn’t leave out the city’s most marginalized residents. — Yessenia Funes


Putting the government of Colorado on the blockchain

U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D) wants to be the new governor of Colorado, and he’s made streamlining some government services with the blockchain part of his platform. Polis is a wealthy former-tech investor who’s self-funded his political efforts. He sees blockchain investment as a way to bring business to Colorado, and while we’re not sold on how effective it would be in making government services more efficient, we’re open to watching how it all works out. The crypto-candidacy is only a minor part of his extensive platform and his opponent, Wayne Stapleton (R), is primarily running on immigration scaremongering. — Rhett Jones


Vote out one of the biggest enemies of net neutrality

As a member of the House, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn has become the poster child of taking donations from telecoms and doing their loyal bidding. You can find plenty of idiotic ghouls screwing up tech policy, but Blackburn is one of the dumbest in their ranks. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t been effective in leading the drumbeat to destroy the internet over the years through efforts like the failed Stop Online Privacy Act. Blackburn finally saw her work pay off when FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and commission’s other Republicans killed the open-web protections last year. Now, she wants a promotion to the Senate and the longer terms come with the office. Even Taylor Swift peeked out of her hidey-hole of privilege, looked at Blackburn, and was revolted. Listen to Tay. — Rhett Jones


The Republican who took on Google wants to take Claire McCaskill’s Senate seat

We don’t know a whole lot about Josh Hawley aside from the fact that as attorney general of Missouri, he launched an anti-trust investigation into Google last year. It was a surprising move for a random AG in the midwest, and it raised questions when it was revealed that Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel donated the maximum legal amount to Hawley’s Senate campaign just four days before he kicked off his Google probe. (Disclosure: Thiel funded a lawsuit that led to the bankruptcy of Gawker Media, Gizmodo’s former parent company.)


The race is a big one because Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill could easily lose her seat in the Senate. If that happens, we’re extremely curious what kind of moves Hawley will make when it comes to regulating the tech sector. — Rhett Jones

Arizona going renewable

Arizona voters have a chance to change the state constitution for the better. Proposition 127 would enshrine a goal of utilities procuring 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, a huge leap over the current law which requires utilities to get just 15 percent of their electricity from renewables. The owner of the state’s largest utility—which, along with other utilities in the state, are run as regulated monopolies—has poured more than $30 million into trying to stop the initiative from passing. State and federal representatives from across the aisle have also voiced their opposition, in part because out-of-state billionaire Tom Steyer has helped fund efforts to pass it. — Brian Kahn


Banning offshore oil and gas drilling and um... vaping? 

Florida’s Amendment 9, Ban Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling and Ban Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces, is exactly what it sounds like. It needs a supermajority of 60 percent of voters to pass, and if it does, offshore oil and gas drilling in state-owned waters would be banned. Vaping indoors in workplaces would also be banned. You can’t have one without the other, but someone is betting that a split will kill the whole thing. — Rhett Jones


Managing editor, Earther

Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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Babylon System

I’ll be looking out for crazy white people. :)

...and I hope to be doing this on Wednesday.