More than 130 propositions, bond questions, measures and constitutional amendments appeared on ballots this year, often in complex language that made them tricky to decipher. In Colorado, Arizona and Alabama, voters waded through at least 10.
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But make no mistake: Ballot measures can be hugely important. They are voters’ chance to directly decide policy, rather than waiting for elected officials to do so. And their outcomes can reflect popular sentiment about contentious issues legislators might not want to touch, sometimes sparking similar measures in other states. Thirteen states have legalized marijuana at the polls in recent years, for example, and Kansans overwhelmingly rejected an antiabortion measure in August.
Here’s how some prominent ballot measures fared:
Recreational marijuana was a popular issue this year, appearing on ballots in five states, including four conservative-led ones — a sign of the increasingly bipartisan support of legalization and advocates’ confidence in voter demand for it. Before Tuesday, 19 states and the District of Columbia allowed the use of recreational cannabis.
But the push this election cycle to legalize marijuana in deep-red states largely failed. Measures that would legalize use by adults passed in Maryland and Missouri but fell short in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.
In Colorado, Proposition 122 — a measure to legalize medicinal psychedelics — was still too close to call on Wednesday morning.
Voters in five states made clear their support for abortion rights. Voters in Kentucky rejected a referendum measure aimed at denying state constitutional protections for abortion, while Michiganders approved an initiative enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution.
Voters in Vermont and California also passed measures guaranteeing a constitutional right to abortion. The result of an abortion-related proposal in Montana remained unresolved by midday Wednesday. That referendum measure would require health-care providers to try to save any infant born alive, including after attempted abortions, or face fines or jail time. Supporters say it would prevent the killing of infants, which is already illegal, while opponents say it would force providers to take extreme measures to treat infants with no chance of survival.
Changes to voting-related policies were on ballots in several states.
Measures to widen access to voting passed in two states. Connecticut approved a constitutional amendment allowing in-person early voting, exiting the small minority of states that don’t offer early voting at all. And Michigan voters said yes to a proposed constitutional amendment that requires nine days of early voting, prepaid stamps for absentee ballots and a system for tracking them. The measure also formalizes that people have a right to vote without harassment, interference or intimidation.
Measures to tighten voting restrictions, meanwhile, prevailed in two states. Nebraska voters approved a measure requiring photo identification to cast a ballot, and Ohio backed an amendment prohibiting noncitizens from voting in local elections.
Results for two other prominent voting measures remained unsettled Wednesday morning. Arizonans considered strict identification requirements for mail-in and in-person voting. In Nevada, Question 3 would establish ranked-choice voting for congressional and some state elections. The change would allow voters to rank their preferences in the general election among the top five candidates who advance from an open primary — making it a nonpartisan primary.
Four of five states voted to scrap language in their constitutions that allows slavery as punishment in prisons, an exception written into the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery more than 150 years ago. The bills were part of a nationwide push to end labor carried out by about 800,000 prisoners nationwide — often for little to no pay. The 13th Amendment bans slavery or involuntary servitude except when it is used as punishment for a crime. The measures succeeded in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont.
The lone exception was Louisiana, but not for reasons you might think. Voters there rejected an amendment that would ban slavery — after its sponsor urged its defeat. State Rep. Edmond Jordan (D) said the language of the amendment was unclear, telling local CBS affiliate WAFB last month that legislators wanted to “clean it up, with the intent of bringing it back next year and making sure that the language is clear and unambiguous.”
Minimum-wage hikes, a liberal priority, fared well Tuesday at a time of high inflation and soaring prices.
In red Nebraska, voters approved an initiative to raise the minimum wage from $9 per hour to $15 by January 2026, a change that is expected to benefit about 150,000 workers. The Cornhusker State joins nine others that have increased their minimum wages to $15 or have pledged to do so.
Voters in the District of Columbia said yes — again — to increasing the minimum wage for tipped employees to equal that of non-tipped employees. The ballot initiative, which would raise the wage from $5.35 per hour to $16.10 by 2027, was first approved by voters in 2018 but later repealed by the D.C. Council.
In Nevada, a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour — up from a minimum of $9.50, depending on whether the worker has health insurance — was leading but remained too close to call Wednesday morning.
Ballot measures about ballot measures
Arkansans rejected Issue 2, a measure that would have raised the bar — to a threshold of three-fifths of voters — for approving constitutional amendments and statutes. A simple 50 percent majority vote will remain the rule.
In Florida, voters did not pass Amendment 2, which would have abolished a state commission that meets every 20 years to propose revisions to the state constitution and place them before voters. It’s one of five ways, including citizen initiatives, the Florida Constitution can be changed. Amendment 2 won a 54 percent majority, but passage required 60 percent.
One ballot-measure-related ballot measure was defeated in Arizona, while two others were still undecided Wednesday morning. All three were supported by organizations not keen on ballot measures and opposed by those that “see voter initiatives as an important counterbalance to laws crafted by the state legislature,” according to the Arizona Republic.
Arizona Proposition 128, which would have allowed legislators to amend or repeal an approved ballot measure that courts deemed unconstitutional, failed. Results for Proposition 129, requiring measures to stick to a single topic, and Proposition 132, requiring that measures including new taxes pass by 60 percent, were not yet settled.
The 2022 Midterm Elections
Georgia runoff election: Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) won re-election in the Georgia Senate runoff, defeating Republican challenger Herschel Walker and giving Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate for the 118th Congress. Get live updates here and runoff results by county.
Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.
What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly after the midterms. Here are the top 10 2024 presidential candidates for the Republicans and Democrats.