Voters Make History with State Ballot Initiatives

We’ll forgive you if you thought the recent election was only about the president. While the media focus was almost exclusively on the presidential race and national politics, there was a lot going on at the state level. These “laboratories of democracy” had a number of ballot initiatives that dealt with important – and sometimes controversial – constitutional questions. Below is a round-up of several referendums that are making headlines now and will likely continue to for years to come.

Student Handout (PDF)

Gay Marriage:

For the first time in the U.S., voters approved of gay marriage legislation at the ballot box. Maryland, Maine, and Washington all approved gay marriage through popular referendum. Other states, like Massachusetts, have legalized gay marriage legislation through the statehouse or through judicial action, but Tuesday marked the first time that voters directly voted on and passed gay marriage measures.  Minnesota rejected an amendment to its state constitution to ban gay marriage.

Same-Sex Marriage Scores First U.S. Ballot Box Victories, Bloomberg News

Voters approve same-sex marriage for the first time, CNN

Marijuana:

Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana, while Colorado and Washington approved measures to legalize consumption and sale of marijuana for recreational use.

Voters approve I-502 legalizing marijuana, Seattle Times

Hickenlooper, Holder discuss Colorado marijuana legalization, Denver Post

Abortion:

Amendment 6, a Florida ballot measure to ban the use of public funding for abortion, was defeated. It would have prohibited any state healthcare money from being spent on abortion procedures, and would have given the state legislature more power to regulate abortion providers.

Proposed limit on Florida abortion rights fails, Associated Press

Florida voters reject measure limiting abortion rights, The Hill

Death Penalty:

California voters rejected a measure that would have repealed the state death penalty. Narrowly defeated 52% to 48%, Proposition 34 would have abolished the California state death penalty and replaced all current death sentences with life in prison.

California death penalty repeal, Proposition 34, rejected, Los Angeles Times

Calif. voters retain death penalty despite costs, Mercury News

Eminent Domain:

Virginia voters approved an amendment to their state constitution limiting the taking of private property for the purpose of economic development. Winning with 82% support, the amendment states that state officials may only use eminent domain to take property from private citizens for public use.

Eminent Domain Amendment Prevails by Wide Margin, Virginia Connection Newspapers