Voters approve abortion restrictions and recreational marijuana in state ballot initiatives
Midterm voters in 37 states considered more than 150 statewide ballot measures reflecting the biggest social and political issues of the moment.Posted — Updated
Some were initiated by citizens, others by lawmakers. Questions included whether to restrict abortion access, expand Medicaid, or change voting requirements.
Voters in at least five states -- Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Oklahoma -- approved measures that create constitutional rights for victims of crime. And Florida voters chose to end a lifetime ban on voting for people convicted of certain felonies.
We'll continue to update this story as results come in.
Three measures in three states concerned abortion access and funding.
In Alabama and West Virginia, voters approved changing their state constitutions to say that they do not protect the right to an abortion or require funding of abortions.
Alabama's Amendment 2 will also change the state constitution to say that it supports the rights of unborn children, giving them constitutional protections.
West Virginia's Amendment 1 also prevents state taxpayer money from being used to pay for abortions for those on Medicaid.
Oregon voters rejected Measure 106, which would have prohibited publicly funded health care programs from covering abortion.
Crime, justice and sentencing
Voters in six states -- Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina and Oklahoma -- considered some version of a measure often called "Marsy's Law." South Dakota passed one in June.
The proposals varied from state to state, but each would add specific protections for victims of crime to a state's constitution. Such protections include the right to be notified about hearings or the release of the accused, the right to restitution or the right to refuse an interview or deposition at the request of the accused.
Supporters of Marsy's Law say it gives victims more say in what happens in their cases. Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said victims already have these types of rights through state laws and warned that enshrining victims' rights in state constitutions creates a false equivalency between them and the rights of the accused. They warn that Marsy's Law could undermine the rights of the accused and divert resources from those in need.
Washington state's initiative 940 would change the legal standard for use of deadly force in officer-involved shootings. It would effectively lower the bar for prosecuting officers by establishing a good faith standard for opening fire.
The measure would also require law enforcement officers to receive ongoing training in violence de-escalation and how to interact with people with mental health issues. And it would establish a duty for officers to render first aid.
Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which proposed restoring voting rights for felons after they complete their sentences, including parole or probation, except for those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense.
Ohio voters in May approved a statewide measure to establish a new redistricting system. Four more states -- Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah -- weighed similar measures for their state legislatures, their congressional districts, or both.
Measures passed in Colorado and Michigan. The Colorado initiative will create a 12-member independent redistricting commission instead of having the state legislature draw district maps. Michigan's Proposition 2 establishes a 13-member redistricting commission and provides criteria for members and maps.
More states considered measures related to voting requirements and ballot access.
Voters in Arkansas and North Carolina approved amendments requiring voters to present a photo ID to vote in person.
Maryland voters chose to authorize the general assembly to pass legislation that lets qualified people register to vote on Election Day. Ballots in Michigan and Nevada asked whether to allow automatic voter registration for those who interact with certain government agencies.
Six measures on four state ballots concerned the legalization of recreational or medical marijuana.
Voters in Michigan approved a measure that allows people 21 and older to use marijuana and changes current violations from crimes to civil infractions.
Missouri had three competing measures. All of them proposed to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, but with different proposed sales tax amounts and revenue uses:
- 2% tax, with revenue to be spent on veterans' services, drug treatment, education and law enforcement
- 15% tax, with revenue to be spent on a biomedical research institute
- 4% tax, with revenue to be spent on health care services for veterans
Voters in Utah are deciding whether to legalize medical marijuana, and Michigan and North Dakota voters weighed citizen initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana.
Oklahoma voted in June to approve medical marijuana.
Two measures in two states proposed increasing the minimum wage to $11 by the year 2021 in Arkansas, and to $12 by 2023 in Missouri.
Medicaid expansion and health care
Four measures on four state ballots concerned Medicaid expansion or funding for Medicaid expansion.
Voters in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska considered whether to require their state governments to accept the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. In Montana, voters had the chance to force the state to continue accepting the expansion.
The initiatives in Montana and Utah proposed a tobacco tax increase and a sales tax increase, respectively, to provide funding for the expanded coverage. In January, Oregon voters approved a measure upholding legislation to provide funding for expanded Medicaid coverage through a tax on health insurers and revenue of certain hospitals.
In Nevada, Question 2 would amend the Sales and Use Tax Act of 1955 to remove taxes on feminine hygiene products, also known as the pink tax.
More to watch
Massachusetts voters chose to keep a state law that protects transgender people from discrimination in public places.
Florida voters passed Amendment 13, which creates a prohibition on racing or betting on greyhounds or other dogs by 2020.
More than 70% of Alabama voters approved an amendment to the state constitution authorizing the display of the Ten Commandments on state and public property, including schools, and to prohibit spending public funds to defend the constitutionality of the amendment.
California's Proposition 6 would repeal fuel and vehicle taxes passed by the legislature in 2017 for road repairs and public transportation.
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