On Tuesday night, much of the nation’s attention was focused on Senate and gubernatorial races in places like Florida and Texas, and for good reason. But aside from the marquee names and races, voters across the nation had the opportunity to monumentally shift the direction of their home state’s politics.
Here at Splinter, we ran through some of the more important (and entertaining) ballot measures and state constitutional amendments that voters had in front of them. The ballots included everything from abortion rights and voting rights of ex-felons, to income caps and the ability to have a shot after work were; and while they might not be as sexy or widely covered, they were and are just as important as whoever voters decided should go to D.C. or their state capitols. So, here’s a quick run through of how y’all did at the polls.
Let’s start with what everyone with an intact brain stem was able to identify as the No. 1 issue of these midterms—healthcare, or, more simply, not dying solely because of America’s insanely expensive healthcare system.
Voters in red states across the nation said to hell with their governors and state legislatures who spent the past eight years blocking Medicaid expansion, and took care of the job themselves. In Idaho, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan was decisively downed by over 20 points, voters turned around and passed their expansion ballot measure, Prop 2, by the same margin. Nebraska voters made things more exciting, squeezing out their pro-expansion measure by a mere 40,000 votes. And we’re still waiting to hear official confirmation for Utah’s Prop 3, but with the pro-expansion crowd up 10 points with 75 percent of voters reporting, it’s trending in the right direction.
Elsewhere, the issues on the ballot weren’t so much about economic or health-related matters, but more about conservatives attempting to manipulate their voting bases into calcifying some of the more horrific policies, just in case they lost their steel grip on the state legislatures.
In North Carolina, voters did well to block a power grab from the GOP-dominated state legislature, downing a pair of amendments that would have granted the General Assembly appointment powers that will now instead stay with the governor. North Carolinians really shit the bed, however, on the three remaining options—per the will of the voters, fellow North Carolina citizens will now be required to have an ID present with them at the polls to vote; income tax will be capped at 7 percent; and that corporations and prosecutors should have even more influence over the justice system.
Down in Florida, they had a whopping 12 amendments to vote on; for the most part, Floridians did alright! The highlight came with their decision to pass Amendment 4, granting felons the right to vote after completing their sentences. This will bring roughly 1.4 million new voters into the system and, hopefully, help shape Florida politics.
Floridians also: voted to ban offshore drilling in state-owned waters (that measure included a ban on indoor vaping, so heads up Juul stans); voted to clean up local politics by increasing mandatory buffer time between serving in public office and working as a lobbyist to six years; voted to abolish dog racing; and voted to make it much harder to open casinos.
Now for the bad part: Florida voters made it insanely difficult to raise taxes in the state legislature by passing Amendment 5, which requires a supermajority to bump up any tax. They also voted 61-39 percent in favor of Amendment 6, another two-parter—this one simultaneously raised the mandatory retirement age of judges to 75 and passed the very bad Marsy’s Law, the same one North Carolinians ushered in.
Staying in the South, Alabama voters made a couple of horrific decisions. First, they passed Amendment 1, which allows for the Ten Commandments to be posted and displayed in schools and other government buildings. Then, they took a further giant step back on their practically nonexistent abortion rights with Amendment 2, which updates the state constitution to read that Alabama will “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.” Both of these measures passed by at least 18 points.
Also on the abortion front, West Virginia amended their state constitution to mirror Alabama’s, with voters deciding that the right to seek an abortion will no longer be protected by state law. If it helps the West Virginians with a soul, this vote was far closer than the one in Alabama, with the pro-lifers eking out 3-point win, which in West Virginia was a margin of less than 20,000 votes.
To wrap this section on a positive note, however, voters in Oregon said to hell with such idiotic restrictions and downed Measure 106 (a ban on public abortion funding) with the votes against the ban nearly doubling those in favor. Good job, Oregon.
And staying with the good news, Michigan ushered in a hazy new future by passing Proposal 1, legalizing recreational marijuana. Meanwhile, No-Fun North Dakota did not puff and instead passed on their opportunity to legalize weed, with Measure 3 losing by 19 points.
- Louisiana overwhelmingly voted to reinstall a buffer between the time felons complete their sentence and can serve in office, but they balanced this out by joining 48 other states in requiring felony convictions to be unanimous jury decisions. (Previously, juries just needed a 10-2 majority.)
- California voters decided that rent control is not in their best interest, which, given the rent and homeless situation in San Francisco, is extremely depressing. (San Fransisco voters did, however, overwhelmingly support raising taxes on companies with revenues of over $50 million in order to pay for homeless services.)
- In Tennessee, Nashville voters passed a measure that will create community oversight boards that monitor police departments. This one cruised by 18 points.
- In Massachusetts, voters decided that they would not go the way of North Carolina’s HB2, rejecting Question 3 and its proposal to remove protections for transgender citizens. Well done.
- And in Missouri, voters passed Prop B, saying fuck to the legislature and bumping up their minimum wage by four dollars, a change that will take effect in the next five years. Likewise, Arkansas voted to raise its minimum wage from $7.25 to $11 an hour by 2021 with a whopping 68 percent of the vote.
It’s not exactly shocking considering the overall tone of the night, but the end result was a mixed bag. American voters, some within a single state (looking at you, North Carolina), pulled off extremely rad, forward-looking changes while simultaneously passing backwards, shitty measures that will deny their public services the funding needed to operate, reproductive freedom, and even just the chance to light up a joint in the comfort of their homes without the fear of the front door busting down.
So, while there’s hope to be found, let this most recent batch of amendments/ballots/measures/propositions/questions serve as a reminder that not everything hinges on the candidacy of a particularly striking individual. Instead, there are real opportunities, every election, for voters to push their states forward or drag them backwards. On both fronts, these changes will be embedded in their state constitutions and budgets for the coming generation, and voters will have to live with the realities they crafted for themselves.
Now, if you’re in Michigan: light one up, turn off the news, and enjoy the fact that your state is now, officially, Chill As Hell.