By Wendy Underhill
The voters have spoken. They want higher minimum wages, freer access to marijuana, the right to hunt—including bears in Maine—and to show respect to veterans and members of the military.
They don’t want to identify a fetus as a human or to change how they vote, and they aren’t ready to label GMOs.
All this can be gleaned from the results of last night’s ballot measures, those policy questions that showed up on ballots in 41 states. The results are in on almost the entire batch of 147. Look at NCSL’s Ballot Measures Database for the whole scoop.
For now, here are the big stories:
Minimum wage: Four states—Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota—had measures to increase the minimum wage, and all passed. Illinois had a nonbinding measure that simply advises the legislature to pass an increase, and it passed, too. In a related matter, Massachusetts passed a requirement that most businesses offer earned sick leave to employees, becoming the third state to do so.
Marijuana: Voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia approved legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. In Florida, 57.6 percent of voters said yes to medical marijuana, but 60 percent was needed to pass a constitutional amendment, so the measure failed.
Hunting: Alabama strengthened its constitutional right to hunt and Mississippi put such a right in its constitution. In Maine, voters declined to prohibit hunting bears with traps, dogs and bait, perhaps heeding the voice of their Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Michigan voters, however, repealed a couple of recently passed laws that had allowed the creation of a wolf hunting season.
Veterans: If a measure is intended to give a break to disabled veterans or the spouses of service members killed in action, it will pass overwhelmingly. Louisiana, Oklahoma—two measures, both passing with more than 90 percent of the vote—and Virginia all approved such measures. Additionally, Oklahoma and Oregon said yes to letting service members also serve in other public roles.
Abortion: Colorado and North Dakota both turned down “personhood” amendments that would have given legal status to the unborn. Colorado did so for the third time, this time with the most favorable vote yet: 36.4 percent. Tennessee voted to amend the state constitution to permit the legislature to enact laws to regulate abortion, so we can expect to see bill introductions early in the next session.
Voting: Whatever the question, voters decided they like how they currently vote, thank you very much. Connecticut and Missouri turned down early voting, an option available in one form or another in 36 states. Montana said no to repealing its same day registration. Oregon rejected the idea of switching from typical primaries to a “top two” primary, in which all candidates, regardless of party, would run on the same primary ticket.
GMOs: Should foods be labeled if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? No, say the voters in Oregon and Colorado. That follows “no” votes in Washington (2013) and California (2012).
Wendy Underhill tracks ballot measures for NCSL.