Update: While ballots are still being counted in some states--making those elections still undecided--the results overall are known. Democrats retook the U.S. House of Representatives, while Republicans maintained control of the Senate. 

On election day, 36 governorships, the entire House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and a host of ballot measures are at stake. Which polls beyond your own local races should you be paying the most attention to? 

Here are five votes that could have big consequences for business owners.

Arizona: Health care

Love or hate it, if you're interested in the future of the Affordable Care Actyou'll want to watch the U.S. Senate race in Arizona. While the late Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) famously blocked a repeal of the health law known as Obamacare last year, his successors could play a role in its fate, if given the chance.

Representative Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), who is running for the retiring Republican Senator Jeff Flake's seat, voted to repeal the law in the House. As Senator, McSally could once again vote for a repeal should a new bill be taken up.

Even if she loses, she may get another shot. Jon Kyl, the Republican Senator who holds McCain's old seat, has said he plans to stay on in that role until January, although he could stay on through 2020. If he leaves in January--and McSally loses her Senate bid--Governor Doug Ducey is expected to appoint her.

Update: A week after this year's midterms, McSally conceded to Democratic candidate Krysten Sinema. In December, Arizona Governor Ducey appointed McSally to fill McCain's former senate seat.

Arkansas: Minimum wage

The outcome of an Arkansas ballot measure to raise the statewide minimum wage could reverberate nationally. Arkansas will vote on Issue 5, which would raise the minimum wage there to $11, from the current $8.50, by 2022. The measure is nearly sure to pass, according to Dean Baker, a senior economist at the nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

Long stalled, U.S. wages seem set to push higher. Giant companies, such as Walmart and Amazon, are playing a role. Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, raised its minimum pay to $11 an hour earlier this year. Last month, Amazon said it would bring its lowest-paid workers to a $15 minimum wage

Missouri voters will vote on whether to boost their state's minimum wage to $12 by 2023, up from $7.85. It's telling that two states in the conservative South are considering the change, Baker says. "The South is the last place on earth you could expect a minimum wage bill to pass," he says.

Update: Voters in both Arkansas and Missouri approved ballot measures raising their state's minimum wage.

Utah: Marijuana legalization

Entrepreneurs in the cannabis business will want to pay attention to the voter initiative in Utah to legalize medical marijuana use. Several states have ballot decisions on marijuana legalization, including North Dakota, which is for recreational use, and Missouri, which is about medical use. However, the Utah vote is seen as pivotal.

Under the proposition, patients with such diseases as cancer and HIV would be able to grow up to six cannabis plants. It would also legalize the growth and production of the plant by licensed vendors. While the initiative has been popular, it lost some vigor when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came out in opposition to the measure. 

A yes vote would be a big win for the cannabis industry, says Robert Litan, an economist and non-resident senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.. "If it can pass in Utah, it could probably pass anywhere," he says.

Update: Voters in Utah and Missouri approved a measure to allow for medical marijuana use in the state. North Dakotan voters rejected an initiative to approve recreational use. 

Michigan: Right to work

Following right-to-work legislation? Keep an eye on the governor's race in Michigan. Some states are starting to sour on right-to-work laws, which, among other things, prevent unions from issuing contracts or agreements requiring employees to pay union dues.

If Michigan Democrat Gretchen Whitmer bests rival Bill Schuette, a Republican and two-term State Attorney General, which some polls expect, she would likely push for a repeal of the law. Whitmer, a member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006, helped organize protests of Michigan's right-to-work legislation at the state capitol ahead of its passage in 2012.

Currently 27 states have right-to-work laws. But right-to-work laws are vulnerable in some places. Missouri voters approved a recent ballot measure rejecting its right-to-work law in August. "If Democrats were to get unified control [of the Nevada legislature], you could see efforts at repeal in Nevada," says Jacob Smith, a political scientist and lecturing fellow in the Thompson Writing Program at Duke University. Unions are likely to continue to push to suppress further adoption in other states. Lawmakers in Ohio and New Hampshire, for example, have failed to pass right-to-work legislation.

Update: Whitmer bested Schuette in the race for Michigan governor, with 53.1 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent going to her opponent. 

Nevada: Immigration

If you're an immigrant--or you employ immigrants--Nevada's U.S. Senate race is clutch. In Nevada, a state where nearly one in five people were born outside the U.S., and which went to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller is facing tough odds. To win, the Hispanic vote will be pivotal, and these voters will want to see action on immigration.

Heller has expressed support for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which defers the deportation of "Dreamers," those who moved to the U.S. as children. But it's unclear whether he would favor new legislation. In 2010, he voted against the DREAM Act, which would have given Dreamers a pathway to permanent residency.

His challenger, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D., Nev.), would likely vote for the program if elected. Rosen has called for a comprehensive bipartisan solution that provides a pathway to citizenship. Moreover, the upset could signal a shift in political winds, offering a renewed emphasis on larger immigration reforms.

"If there is a clear mandate that comes out of the elections, then maybe things change," says Ronil Hira, an associate professor of political science at Howard University, where he studies high-skilled immigration policies. "At this stage, [business owners] are facing huge uncertainty--and that's not good for them or the U.S economy. There should be some kind of resolution. Not having any resolution is the worst thing."

Update: Rosen unseats Heller to win the key Senate seat in Nevada. She won 50.8 percent of the vote, compared to his 45 percent.

Published on: Nov 5, 2018