Every state with a minimum wage hike and all but one with a marijuana proposal saw those measures approved on Tuesday, as voters weighed in on some of the most important economic and social issues facing the nation.
Voters considered a total of 146 state ballot measures (and one in D.C.), a quarter-century low. The last time fewer measures appeared during a general election was 1988. But don’t let that fool you: voters were faced with substantial policy questions ranging from abortion to guns to GMO labeling.
(Note: For results of the two dozen ballot measures worth watching, scroll to the bottom.)
Despite the low number of measures, the fights surrounding them were intense and expensive. More than $195 million funded 193,000 television ads about ballot measures, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data.
The number of states with legal recreational marijuana is set to double, with voters in Alaska and Oregon approving legalization just as their peers did in Colorado and Washington two years ago. Voters in D.C. also approved a legalization measure, though it allows only possession and cultivation, not sale, of the drug. The one state where marijuana failed was Florida, where medical marijuana received majority support, but still fell shy of the 60 percent needed to pass.
At the same time, voters in four states approved minimum wage hikes, a move significant not only in its effect on wages but also in its symbolism. The measures passed by wide—in several cases, double-digit—margins and, after Tuesday, more than half the states now have minimum wages above the federal level.
|State||Current||2015||2016||2017||Tied to inflation|
|Alaska||$7.75||$8.75||$9.75||Yes, after 2016|
|South Dakota||$7.25||$8.50||Yes, after 2015|
Food manufacturers successfully fended off a measure that would have required labels on genetically modified foods in Colorado, following a campaign in which the main opposition group out-raised the main group supporting the measure by a factor of roughly 16 to 1. (The No on 105 Coalition raised more than $16 million in contributions, more than half of it from Monsanto, DuPont and Pepsico. Coca Cola, Kraft, Land O’Lakes and General Mills were also big contributors. Right to Know Colorado, the group supporting the measure, raised just under $1 million.) The more than $18 million spent by an industry-backed group to defeat a similar measure in Oregon easily surpassed the previously reported state record of $12 million—set in 2007, when the cigarette industry succeeded in defeating a tax increase on its product.
Reproductive rights advocates notched two victories, with voters in Colorado and North Dakota rejecting so-called “personhood” measures which would have expanded rights to the unborn and, reproductive rights advocates warned, laid the foundation for restricting abortions. But they also suffered one loss, with 53 percent of Tennessee voters approving a constitutional amendment that lays the foundation for future abortion restrictions by making clear that nothing in the state constitution “secures or protects right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
In Florida, a measure to approve medical marijuana garnered majority support, but failed to muster the 60 percent needed for passage. That intense fight was defined largely by two wealthy men, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and local personal-injury lawyer John Morgan, and helped set the tone of an expensive election season for ballot measures. Adelson contributed $5.5 million of the $6.3 million raised by Drug Free Florida, the group working to defeat the measure. Morgan and his law firm contributed about half of the $8 million raised by People United for Medical Marijuana, which sought to pass it.
Georgians approved a measure to cap the top income tax rate, currently at 6 percent, while those in Tennessee voted to abolish it altogether. The Georgia vote won with 3-to-1, while the measure in Tennessee was passed 2-to-1.
|Abortion||Tennessee’s Constitutional Amendment 1 (Passed 53%)||Lays the foundation for future abortion restrictions by amending the state constitution to explicitly make clear that nothing in it “secures or protects right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”|
|Abortion||Colorado’s Amendment 67 (Failed 65%)||Counts “unborn human beings” as a person or child under the Colorado criminal code and Colorado wrongful death act.|
|Abortion||North Dakota’s Constitutional Measure 1 (Failed 64%)||Adds the following line to the state constitution: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”|
|Drugs||Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2 (Passed 52%)||Legalizes marijuana for recreational use.|
|Drugs||Florida’s Amendment 2 (Failed 42%)||Grants access to medical marijuana for individuals with “debilitating diseases,” as determined by a licensesd phsyician.|
|Drugs||District of Columbia’s Initiative 71 (Passed 64%)||Legalize possession of two ounces of marijuana and cultivation of up to three plants.|
|Drugs||California’s Proposition 47 (Passed 59%)||This sentencing reform eliminates the possibility of being charged with a felony for six crimes, including possession in small amounts of a number of drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Represents a further reform of the state’s 20-year-old “three strikes” law.|
|Drugs||Oregon’s Measure 91 (Passed)||Legalizes marijuana.|
|GMO||Colorado’s Proposition 105 (Failed 66%)||Requires labeling of genetically modified foods.|
|GMO||Oregon’s Measure 92 (Fail 51%)||Requires labeling of genetically modified foods.|
|Guns||Washington’s Initiative 591 (55%)||Bans background checks on firearms, unless in compliance with federal standards.|
|Guns||Washington’s Initiative 594 (Passed)||Requires universal background checks on gun purchases.|
|Health care||California’s Proposition 45 (Failed 60%)||Requires changes to health insurance rates to be approved by California’s insurance commissioner.|
|Health care||California’s Proposition 46 (Failed 67%)||Introduces a pair of controversial changes to the state’s health care system. First, it requires drug and alcohol tests of doctors and penalties for those who test positively. Second, it raises the limit on pain and suffereing damages awarded for medical malpractice.|
|Minimum wage||Alaska’s Ballot Measure 3 (Passed 69%)||Raises the minimum wage from $7.75 to $8.75 next year and again to $9.75 in 2016. After that, increases would be tied to inflation.|
|Minimum wage||Arkansas’s Issue 5 (Passed)||Raise the minimum wage from below the federal minimum of $7.25 to $7.5 at the start of 2015, increasing it 50 cents in 2016 and again in 2017.|
|Minimum wage||Nebraska’s Initiative 425 (Passed 59%)||Increases the state minimum wage from the federal level to $8 next year and $9 the year after that.|
|Minimum wage||South Dakota’s Initiated Measure 18 (Passed)||Raises the minimum wage from the federal level to $8.5 next year and tie future increases to inflation.|
|Other||Massachusetts’s Question 3 (Failed)||Repeals a 2011 law, that would allow three casinos and a slot parlor to be built in the state.|
|Other||Oregon’s Measure 90 (Failed)||Reforms the primary nomination process in Oregon, placing all candidates regardless of party on the primary ballot with only the top two advancing.|
|Tax/budget||Georgia’s Amendment A (Passed 74%)||Caps the top income tax rate, currently set at 6 percent.|
|Tax/budget||Tennessee’s Constitutional Amendment 3 (Passed 66%)||Bans personal income taxes.|
|Tax/budget||California’s Proposition 2 (Passed 69%)||Expands the state’s rainy-day reserves and requires the state to pay down its debts in good times.|
|Tax/budget||California’s Proposition 1 (Passed 67%)||Authorizes roughly $7.5 billion in water infrastructure bonds.|