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The Weirdest Ballot Initiatives Of 2016

Election Day 2016 isn't just about picking the next president. Many states will also vote on ballot initiatives dealing with hot-button issues like legalizing recreational and medical marijuana. And those issues are actually pretty mundane compared to some of the stranger issues that are being voted on today. 

Here's a sampling of the oddest ballot initiatives. 

California: Plastic Bag Prohibition

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One era of prohibition might end while another begins tomorrow in California. Voters in the Golden State will have a chance to legalize recreational marijuana by voting yes on Proposition 64. At the same time, they can vote to prohibit single-use plastic bags by passing Proposition 67 a.k.a the Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum.

The campaign - which is being led by the American Progressive Bag Alliance - would ban retailers from bundling up purchases in non-reusable, non-biodegradable bags. Instead, they can sell consumers more ecologically friendly bags at a cost of no less than 10 cents per bag.

The campaign might seem trivial, but it's already raised more money than North Dakota's medical marijuana campaigns. According to Ballotpedia, the "vote yes" movement for medical marijuana has mustered just under $5,600 while the opposition has raised $0 because there isn't an official "vote no" campaign.

Meanwhile, the plastic bag prohibitionists have raised over $3.5-million while the pro-baggers have gathered a war chest of over $6-million. No word yet on whether Yoko Ono -- co-founder of John Lennon's Bagism movement -- has taken a stance on the issue.

California: Mandatory Condoms

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Groceries aren't the only bagging issue at stake in California. If voters pass Proposition 60 (a.k.a. the Condoms in Pornographic Films Initiative), performers in adult movies would have to wear condoms while filming sex scenes. The initiative would also require producers to pay for performers to get vaccinations, medical examinations and other health benefits.

Sounds great, right? Not according to the Democratic Party of California, or the state GOP, or the Libertarians or many other influential groups who say that the bill is so poorly written that it could lead to citizens suing each other for making sex tapes. Seriously.

"Married couples who film in their own homes can be sued" under the new legislation according to State Senator Mark Leno (D), who co-wrote the official rebuttal to Prop 60. "The proponent [of the initiative] wants you to believe this is about worker safety. But this disguises the real impact of the measure: the creation of an unprecedented LAWSUIT BONANZA that will cost taxpayers 'tens of millions of dollars' and threatens the safety of performers."

And by "lawsuit bonanza," he means that any California resident can sue a member of the porn industry for not following the new law. Think of them as latex vigilantes or "condom cops," to use the words of the Los Angeles Times, which officially opposes Prop 60.

Colorado: Slavery

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The Civil War ended over 150 years ago. But slavery is still legal in Colorado - for prisoners, at least. According to the state constitution, it is legal to subject convicts to forced, unpaid labor (i.e. slavery).

Here's the exact wording in the constitution: "There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."

But that could change tomorrow if voters pass Amendment T, which would cut the "except as a punishment for crime..." clause from the constitution. Meaning slavery would finally be completely abolished in Colorado.

Arkansas: Ending Coup d'États

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Every state has a few quirks in its constitution. But Arkansas stands out because the state allows legal coups. Thanks to a constitutional amendment passed in 1914, the governor effectively loses power whenever she or he leaves state lines.

The amendment says, "In the case of the impeachment of the Governor, or his or her...absence from the state, the powers and duties of the office, shall devolve up on the Lieutenant Governor for the residue of the term, or until the disability shall cease."

That provision can be a huge problem when the state's top lawmakers don't see eye to eye on issues like the right to bear arms. Back in 2013, former Governor Mike Beebe (D) attended a National Governors Association meeting in Washington, D.C. While he was away, Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr (R) used his temporary powers to sign a gun bill into law that Beebe opposed.

And Darr wasn't apologetic about the breach of decorum. "When I'm in charge, when I'm officially governor of Arkansas, and I was on Friday - I look at it as my job and my duty to work for those citizens," he wrote on his government blog. "[Governor Beebe's] not my boss. He's not my employer, the people of Arkansas are."

Voters can prevent that sort of controversy from happening again by passing Issue 2, which would let governors retain gubernatorial power while outside the state.

Indiana and Kansas: The Right to Hunt and Fish

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When you think of great human rights causes, the emancipation of slaves, the suffragism and the Civil Rights movement probably come to mind first. The freedom to fish and hunt? Not so much. But those pastimes could become constitutional rights in Indiana and Kansas if their respective voters approve two amendments on the ballot.

For the record, no one is trying to stop residents in either state from breaking out the tackle or packing a bowie knife. So critics say that the campaigns are, at best, unnecessary. And, at worse, a huge waste of time. 

"No sentient human being can believe that the state of Indiana would actually ban hunting and fishing," wrote the editorial board of the Journal Gazette. "From the beginning, this proposal has been a colossal waste of time and energy whose passage could work costly mischief with courts and regulators and trivialize a magnificent document [the state constitution]."

But a lot of lawmakers across the country disagree. So far, 19 states protect hunting and fishing as constitutional rights. They include Texas, Georgia, Minnesota and other districts in the South and Midwest. So here's to life, liberty and the pursuit of woodland creatures.


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