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San Francisco. Photo: Francesco Vaninetti/UIG/Getty Images

In Tuesday’s midterms, voters set out yet again to tackle major social and economic issues — flat wages, expensive housing, discrimination against released prisoners — that public officials and companies failed to resolve.

Why it matters: In part, the populism that is roiling nations around the world is a reaction to a feeling that the system has failed to respond to large social issues. In these cases, voters said markets and public officials fell short.

  • As we reported yesterday, a dozen cities and states — red and blue — have recently approved $15-an-hour minimum wages. Dozens more have approved lesser increases from the $7.25 federal minimum wage.
  • Now, in the midterms, two red states — Arkansas and Missouri — approved big minimum increases. Arkansas raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour from $8.50, and Missouri to $12 from $7.85.

The issue of rectifying skyrocketing housing costs appeared on ballots in eight states.

  • In San Francisco, voters overwhelmingly approved a tax on big business to fund permanent housing, emergency shelters and mental health services for the city's homeless people.
  • Economists said it would raise $250 million to $300 million.
  • The passage is a defeat for the city's big tech firms — accused of hugely exacerbating San Francisco's explosion of housing costs — who mostly opposed the tax or stayed quiet.

And voters in cities from Portland to Charlotte to Austin to Bellingham, Washington, voted to raise hundreds of millions of dollars via taxes or bonds to build new cheaper housing.

  • But Californians as a whole defeated a separate proposition to expand rent control. Opponents — who vastly outspent proponents — said the result would be to worsen the state's housing crisis because some property owners would take their homes off the market.

In Florida, voters decisively struck down a 150-year-old law that disenfranchised anyone convicted of a felony, even after completing their sentence.

The ballot initiative repeals an 1868 constitutional amendment that overwhelmingly affects black men. To the degree they vote, the ex-felons could have an enormous impact on elections, since they could become 9.2% of Florida's electorate.

  • What’s next: Iowa and Kentucky are the only remaining states that disenfranchise ex-felons.

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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