John Minchillo / AP

Hash, cash and places to crash: Seven votes to watch on Election Day

Marijuana legalization, campaign finance reform and Airbnb-style rentals are on the ballot in a busy off year

America’s next president won’t be selected on Tuesday, and the Republican Party’s congressional majority isn’t at risk. Yet this year’s Election Day will still decide a handful of major statewide ballot initiatives and hotly contested local races. Below are some of the key votes to watch this year.

Ohio could legalize marijuana sales and recreational use

Voters in the Buckeye State will consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow both medicinal and recreational marijuana sales. Polling ahead of the vote suggests a close race — in part because some legalization advocates oppose this particular proposal.

This is because Issue 3, as the measure is called, would institute a legal monopoly on marijuana cultivation in Ohio. A small handful of wealthy landowners who support the measure would win exclusive growing rights, something that worries some members of the legalization effort.

Seattle could reform how political campaigns are financed

A proposal up for vote this Tuesday could transform political fundraising in staunchly liberal Seattle. Initiative 122 would provide every registered voter with four “Democracy Vouchers” per citywide election. Each voucher would be worth $25, for a total of $100 that voters could distribute among their preferred candidates as campaign donations. The system would be funded by a 10-year, $30 million rise in property taxes.

Supporters hope the measure will turn middle-class and lower-income voters into a vital fundraising source, forcing candidates to spend more time addressing their concerns instead of raising campaign funds from wealthier benefactors.

Maine is also considering a ballot measure that would attempt to reform the state’s public campaign funding system by requiring additional disclosures from outside groups that campaign in political races.

Seattle’s only socialist elected official faces a tough re-election race

Two years ago, economist Kshama Sawant made national headlines when she became the first declared socialist in at least a century to be elected to Seattle’s city council. Now she’s fighting to make sure she doesn’t become America’s most famous living one-term socialist politician.

Sawant faces a tough challenger in the form of Pamela Banks, the president of Seattle’s local branch of the Urban League, a national civil rights group. Two-thirds of Sawant’s colleagues on the city council have endorsed Banks, a Democrat.

Houston looks to replace its first openly gay mayor

America’s fourth-most populous city faces an open field in this year’s mayoral race, as current Mayor Annise Parker has reached her term limit. Parker’s six-year tenure has been historic; she is the first openly gay mayor in the city’s history, making Houston the largest U.S. city to have an openly gay mayor.

Houston’s mayoral races are nonpartisan, which means multiple candidates from each party are permitted to run during the general election. In a crowded field, local publication Texas Monthly identifies six major candidates. Whoever wins will inherit a major unfunded pension obligation, one of the key issues in the race.

Houston voters face a litmus test on transgender rights

As the city deliberates over who will replace her, it will also weigh a referendum to repeal the so-called "bathroom ordinance," which bans discrimination across several categories, including gender identity, in access to public bathrooms and other facilities.

Ohio could reform its process for drawing legislative districts

Ohio is one of America’s few genuinely purple states, and that makes it a perpetual campaign battleground between Democrats and Republicans. That battle often spills beyond particular elections to encompass debates over how elections should be conducted in the first place.

Activists are now pushing a measure they hope will guarantee fairer elections for the state legislature. Supporters of Issue 1 contend that the current rules governing the Ohio Apportionment Board — the body that draws state legislature districts every decade — make it too easy for one party to dominate the process and gerrymander the district map to ensure legislative majorities. The proposed reforms would expand membership on the board (which would be renamed the Ohio Redistricting Commission), and require assent from members of the minority party before a new district map can be approved.

San Francisco looks to restrict Airbnb-style rentals

One of the most hotly disputed and well-funded ballot measure contests this year comes from the heart of America's tech industry. In San Francisco, activists are hoping to put a check on the expansion of short-term rental businesses such as Airbnb through a referendum that would limit how many days out of the year a space can be listed for rent.

Proposition F would require that rental spaces be listed on websites like Airbnb for no more than 75 days per year. Airbnb, unsurprisingly, has fiercely contested the proposal; in late September it was reported that the company had spent more than $8 million fighting Proposition F.

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