Update on 2018 Ballot Initiatives

Criminal justice reformers seemed to win big last night at the ballot box. Florida voters approved Amendment 4, which automatically restores voting rights to most felons in the state after completion of sentence or when they go on parole. Only those with murder and sexual offenses will not have their rights automatically restored. Before this amendment, the state was one of only four to permanently disenfranchise former felons. In Louisiana, voters removed some of the vestiges of Jim Crow era discrimination by passing Amendment 2, which requires a unanimous verdict for felony trials. Louisiana was the only state where a defendant could be convicted on murder charges with a 10-2 split jury; Oregon is the only other state that allows for split verdicts, although this is not allowed in the case of murder. In a small victory for gun control advocates, Washington voters approved Initiative 1639, which raised the minimum age to purchase guns to 21.

Sadly, many important environmental measures did not pass. In Washington, I-1631 which would have been a first in the nation fee on carbon appears to have been defeated. A check of the voting results on the Secretary of State website shows that the measure lost with 56.32% of the vote being no and 43.68% of the vote being yes as of 10:03 PM on November 6.  In Colorado, Proposition 112, which would have imposed restrictions on drilling and fracking by oil and natural gas companies, forcing them to drill at least 2500 feet from homes, businesses, and other sensitive areas was defeated 56.75% to 43.25%, with most of the votes counted. Arizona voters did not approve Proposition 127, which would have required the state to garner 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030; something that seems as though it would be an easy proposition for a state that enjoys so much sunshine throughout the year. The only good source of news came from Florida, where voters approved Amendment 9, which bans offshore oil and gas drilling as well as vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces.

LGBTQ rights were protected by voters in Massachusetts. There, voters approved question 3, which prohibits discrimination based on gender or identity in public places. This vote keeps in place the law passed in 2016.

Several states voted on measures that would expand Medicaid. In Idaho, Proposition 2 to expand eligibility to Medicaid to all those under 65 with income at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line was passed. Similar measures in Utah (Proposition 3) and Nebraska (Initiative 427) also passed. However, a Medicaid expansion measure in Montana that would have also raised tobacco taxes (Initiative 185) was defeated.

Marsy’s law, which was passed originally in California and provides crime victims with rights in the judicial process was on the ballot in 6 states last night and looks to have been passed in all six states. Oregon voters did not approve Measure 105, which would have repealed the state’s sanctuary state law. Arkansas (Issue 2) and North Carolina voters approved measures requiring voters to show ID at the polls. Several abortion related measures were also voted on yesterday. Voters in Alabama approved Amendment 2 that would recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children. Similarly, voters in West Virginia supported Amendment 1, stating that nothing in the West Virginia Constitution protects the right to an abortion or requires funding for the procedure. However, voters in Oregon did not approve Measure 106 that would prohibit spending public funds on abortions.

Finally, marijuana was once again on the ballot last night in several states. Utah (Proposition 3) seemingly voted to allow the medical use of marijuana for qualifying medical illnesses. Missouri had several marijuana related measures on the ballot yesterday. The voters in the state approved the use of medical marijuana and a tax on such at 4% (Amendment 2). Taxes of 2% and 15% were part of the other measures that were defeated. Voters in Michigan approved Proposal 1 to legalize recreational use and possession of marijuana for people 21 years and older. North Dakota voters rejected a measure that would have legalized medical marijuana for individuals with qualifying illnesses.

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