MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: ballot initiatives in Tuesday’s midterms.
Polling experts estimate about 47 percent of Americans turned out to vote. If accurate, this would be the first midterm election in U.S. history with participation from more than 100 million voters.
But Americans weren’t only voting for their choice of candidates. They also weighed in on important ballot initiatives—155 questions in 37 states. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg is here now with a roundup of the most consequential measures.
AUDIO: [Sound of voters at the poll]
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: On Tuesday, voters in Michigan, Utah, North Dakota, and Missouri went to the polls to decide important questions on marijuana.
At a Utah polling station, 32-year-old Nica Avey handed in her ballot. She said it was important to come out and vote on Proposition 2. That was the question on legalizing medical marijuana in the state.
AVEY: I feel like if there’s something that’s less addicting than opioids to use, it’s definitely worth trying, and it doesn’t seem to have faired too poorly for California or Colorado.
Despite opposition from Latter-day Saint leaders, the ballot initiative passed with 53 percent of the vote. Two-thirds of Missouri voters also approved legalizing medical marijuana.
Meanwhile Michigan went a step further, handily becoming the tenth state to legalize recreational marijuana. It became the first Midwestern state to do so. North Dakota voters chose not to join Michigan, overwhelmingly rejecting a measure to allow recreational marijuana.
Voters in the red states of Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah passed propositions expanding Medicaid. The expansion will include residents who make less than $16,000 for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four.
COMMERCIAL: Proposition 2 is an Idaho grown solution. It would keep Idaho families healthy. And bring our tax dollars back to Idaho.
In Alabama voters considered a constitutional amendment that asked whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed on public property. According to Birmingham’s CBS’s affiliate, the measure passed easily.
NEWS ANCHOR: Amendment One passed with 71 percent of the vote allowing for the Ten Commandments to be displayed on state property and at schools but prohibits the use of public funds to defend the display in court.
Two-thirds of Alabama voters also passed a constitutional amendment recognizing the rights and sanctity of unborn children.
Pro-life measures had mixed results in two other states. In West Virginia, voters blocked Medicaid dollars from funding abortions in the state. The initiative also added a line to the state constitution clarifying that nothing in the document guarantees a right to an abortion.
But in Oregon, where preborn babies have the least protection, voters failed to pass a measure that would have banned using public funds for abortion.
Still, Mallory Quigley with the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List says there was more good news than bad.
QUIGLEY: In Oregon pro-abortion forces did outspend the pro-life movement by at least 3 to 1, but Oregon is a deep blue state, so they spent heavily just to have a pro-abortion victory there. All-in-all I think it was a very, very good night for the pro-life movement and for these ballot initiatives.
Other important initiatives that failed included the first statewide referendum on transgender rights. In Massachusetts, voters upheld a law that allows individuals to use the public bathroom and locker room that corresponds with their chosen gender identity. Only 32 percent voted to repeal the law.
Andrew Beckwith is president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. He led the repeal campaign. Beckwith says his hopes now rest in the federal court system to workout transgender rights along with protecting privacy in public places.
BECKWITH: I’m happy to see that the Senate was retained so that the federal court system, the Supreme Court, all the way down will be more sympathetic, so that’s where the fight goes next.
And in Ohio, another failed measure would have added an amendment to the state constitution to decriminalize first and second drug possession charges. That would’ve included any drug of any amount. The initiative failed by a wide margin despite $15 million in out-of-state campaign dollars from supporters like George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg.
Around the country voters also faced questions on voting rights, voter registration, and voter ID. Michigan and Nevada passed initiatives that create an automatic voter registration system. Whenever eligible voters get driver’s licenses or state ID cards, they will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. Thirteen states already use this system.
North Carolina and Arkansas passed propositions that require residents to present a photo ID to vote. Two years ago, a federal court struck down a similar North Carolina law, so it’s likely this version will also face legal challenges.
AUDIO: [Sound of cheering]
And in Florida, supporters cheered a measure that automatically restores voting rights to 1.5 million convicted felons who’ve completed their sentences, minus murderers and sex-offenders. That’s 10 percent of Florida’s adult population, which could dramatically change the political landscape of this key swing state in 2020.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.