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Voters Approve Ballot Measures on Abortion Rights, Recreational Cannabis

This year’s other measures mostly dealt with taxes and state funds, with voters generally approving those creating or broadening tax exemptions.

By Helen Brewer  |  November 8, 2023

All but four of the 36 statewide ballot measures up for a vote across six states this fall have met their fates. Twenty-eight of those measures were on ballots yesterday in Colorado, Maine, New York, Ohio and Texas. Louisiana voters decided four measures in October and will decide the remaining four on Nov. 18.

Thirty of these measures were constitutional amendments or statutes referred to voters by their legislatures; the other six were citizen initiatives.

Big-Picture Trends

Garnering the most national attention among this year’s statewide measures was Ohio’s Issue 1, establishing the right to abortion and other reproductive health care in the state constitution. The measure won by a double-digit margin. Runner-up for national attention was Ohio’s Issue 2 to legalize recreational marijuana, which also passed.

Maine voters passed a measure prohibiting foreign governments and affiliated organizations from spending on state; Louisiana voters in October approved a measure prohibiting both private and foreign funding in elections.

Most other ballot measures this year dealt with taxes and state funds. In general, voters approved measures creating or broadening tax exemptions, from various types of real property tax exemptions to exemptions for medical equipment manufacturers. Texans voted to establish several new state funds for various state service projects (water, parks, recreation, energy), while Colorado voters rejected one attempt to change how the state uses excess tax revenue but approved another.

Read on for a state-by-state breakdown of last night’s results. Visit NCSL’s Ballot Measures Database for comprehensive information on all 2023 ballot measures, as well as a developing look at 2024’s measures and data on all previous measures.

Hot-Button Ballot Measures in Ohio

Ohio voters approved yesterday’s Issue 1, which enshrines a right to abortion and the freedom to make other reproductive health decisions in the state constitution. The measure also prohibits discrimination on the basis of reproductive health decisions. This is in keeping with recent trends across the country—every pro-abortion measure that has appeared on statewide ballots since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade has been approved.

In an August special election, Ohio voters rejected another measure also called Issue 1, that would have raised the threshold for a ballot measure to pass to 60% of the vote from 50%. Because that measure was rejected, November’s Issue 1 becomes law with 57.7% of the vote.

Ohio voters also approved Issue 2. The measure legalizes recreational marijuana use for adults over age 21. Ohio joins at least 23 other states and Washington, D.C., in allowing such use. Worth noting: Oklahoma voters rejected a recreational marijuana initiative earlier this year.

The Maine Event

Maine voters decided eight ballot measures in yesterday’s election, second only to Texas’s 14. Four measures related to elections. Voters approved Question 2, which bans foreign spending in elections, and Question 5, increasing the amount of time judges have to review citizen initiative petitions. Voters rejected Question 7, which would have allowed non-residents to circulate initiative petitions, and, while it is too soon to call it, voters have likely rejected Question 8, which would have removed a provision in the Maine Constitution prohibiting individuals who are under a guardianship because of mental illness from voting. That provision has been found unconstitutional in previous court cases.

Notably, Maine voters rejected Question 3, which would have established the country’s first publicly owned statewide electric utility, and they passed Question 1, a measure requiring voter approval for public utilities to borrow over $1 billion.

In a nod to Yankee ingenuity, Maine voters said yes to Question 4, an automotive “right to repair” law.

Maine voters also approved Question 6, which will guarantee that provisions of the state constitution pertaining to the state’s treaties with Indian Tribes are included in printed copies of the constitution.

Ballots Are Bigger in Texas

Texas voters passed all but one of the 14 measures on their ballots. Most of these measures had to do with taxes and state funds. After yesterday’s election, state funds for water-related projects, broadband infrastructure, electric utility projects and state park construction and maintenance will go into effect.

Voters also approved an amendment protecting the right to farm, ranch and engage in timber production, horticulture and wildlife management. The sole measure Texas voters rejected, Proposition 13, would have raised the mandatory retirement age for state judges to 79 from 75.

New York Shatters Debt Ceilings

New York voters approved both measures on their ballots yesterday—both raising debt ceilings. Proposal 1 removed the debt ceiling for small city school districts. Proposal 2 extends for 10 more years a current policy that exempts sewage maintenance projects from municipal debt ceilings, effectively allowing localities to incur debt to maintain sewage systems even if the debt exceeds existing ceilings.

Colorado on Taxes

Colorado voters were divided on tax measures. They rejected Proposition HH, which would have reduced property taxes and allowed the state to keep more excess tax revenue than currently authorized. Meanwhile, they OK’d Proposition II, allowing the state to use excess revenue from taxes on tobacco products to fund preschool programs.

Last but Not Least, Louisiana

When it comes to when elections are held, Louisiana stands alone. This year, it ran its all-comers primary for state elections on Oct. 14, and has its runoff election scheduled for Nov. 18. In October, Louisianans approved four measures, including one enshrining a right to worship in the state constitution and another prohibiting private and foreign funding in elections.

Still to come, four ballot measures on Nov. 18: one defining the veto process; another providing property tax exemptions for first responders; and two relating to the use of state funds.

Helen Brewer is a policy specialist with NCSL’s elections and redistricting program.

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