Showbiz Throws Support Behind Array of 2016 Ballot Initiatives

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have dominated news cycle after news cycle, but on Tuesday, voters across the country will decide on some enormously consequential issues on initiatives that have drawn heavy interest from the entertainment community.

First and foremost are a number of ballot propositions that will legalize the recreational use of marijuana, including California’s Proposition 64. It has drawn heavy support from Sean Parker, who has contributed $8.6 million to its passage, according to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, and celebrities such as Jay Z, Russell Simmons, Sarah Silverman, Danny Glover, and Shailene Woodley have endorsed it.

Another key backer is Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, who told Variety’s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel last week that its passage would mean “the beginning of the end of the war on marijuana.”

“It is the beginning of a renewed conversation about the war on drugs writ large, a referendum in many respects where we have been trying to criminalize people’s behavior yet we have only wasted a trillion-plus dollars and destroyed, I would argue, many millions of lives in the process and not produced the intended result,” he said.

Other marijuana legalization measures are on the ballot in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, and Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota will be voting on medical marijuana use.

Recent polling has shown California’s Yes on 64 in the upper 50s, a good spot to be in, and the measure has enjoyed lopsided financial support compared to the “No” campaign. But supporters are cautiously optimistic, as a legalization initiative in 2010 had support until the final weeks, when the race tightened and it was ultimately defeated.

Another measure, the state’s Proposition 61, sets restrictions on the amount that the state pays for prescription drugs. It has drawn a huge amount of advertising on local airwaves, and on Monday, Bernie Sanders is scheduled to hold in downtown Los Angeles a rally in favor of it. Proponents have been vastly outspent by opponents, including the pharmaceutical industry.

California has the most initiatives on the ballot of any state — 17, on a wide sweep of issues including gun control, the death penalty, and the use of condoms in adult movies.

Although there is great interest from some entertainment industry activists in a number of the measures, it still pales in comparison to the presidential race. That’s similar to the situation in 2008, when Barack Obama’s campaign made it difficult for opponents of Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage, to draw celebrity interest and even donors to match the efforts of the proponents of its measure. Hollywood interest picked up in the aftermath to Prop 8’s passage.

Here’s a glance at some of the initiatives that have drawn the industry’s biggest energies:

Death penalty. California has a measure on the ballot, Proposition 62, to repeal the death penalty, an initiative that has drawn support from Bryan Cranston, Will.i.am, Mike Farrell, Jackson Browne, Paul Haggis, and Harry Belafonte, among others.

Among the major donors: Reed Hastings, who has contributed $1 million. He’s also contributed $980,962 to another initiative, Prop 57, a criminal justice reform initiative. It increases parole chances for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allows judges to decide whether juveniles should be tried as adults.

Many of those in favor of Prop 62 are opposing another initiative, Prop 66, which promises to “speed up” executions by changing the appeals process.

Gun control. A California initiative, Proposition 63, would require background checks for the purchase of ammunition, and would ban large capacity magazines. It also includes provisions designed to prohibit certain individuals from possessing firearms. Parker has contributed $400,000 to the initiative campaign, and other donations have come from Kevin Huvane, Amanda Peet, Jessica Alba and Steve Levitan.

Other gun control measures are on the ballot in Maine and Nevada.

Groups like the Brady Campaign for Gun Violence have drawn on entertainment industry figures in their calls for increased background checks. They have argued that progress on gun violence issues are being made at the state level, even if measures have stalled out in Congress.

Condoms in adult films. California’s Proposition 60 requires adult film performers to use condoms during filming of sexual intercourse, having a potentially big impact on the state’s porn industry. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has contributed $5.2 million to its passage, while adult film distributors and the California Democratic Party are lined up against it. Also against: Such figures as Dan Savage and Wil Wheaton.

Income tax increase. In 2012, California voters passed an initiative that raised income taxes on those earning more than $250,000 — but the measure was temporary. Proposition 55 would extend the increase another 12 years, to fund education an healthcare.

Traffic. Los Angeles County has Measure M on the ballot, a half-cent sales tax increase that would promise to pour massive amounts of money into the regions transportation network, including funding for subway and rail and freeway traffic flow. Mark Ruffalo and Moby have announced their support — and Jimmy Kimmel tweeted his backing. “I will #VoteYesOnM because I JUST WANT TO GET HOME!!!” So yes, this could save commuting times for plenty who work in Hollywood. The catch: It needs 2/3 support to pass.

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