While the nation was focused primarily on the presidential election, several states were voting on initiatives that will have significant ramifications on society.
Here is what you should know about the ballot initiatives concerning abortion, criminal justice reform, drugs, gambling, and more.
Which states voted on abortion restrictions?
Two states—Colorado and Louisiana—voted on whether to add restrictions on abortion.
Colorado voters rejected Proposition 115, an initiative that would have banned abortion beginning at 22 weeks of pregnancy. The decision maintains current Colorado law, which does not restrict abortion after a certain point in a pregnancy. Colorado is one of only seven states that has no gestational limit on abortion.
Louisiana voters approved Amendment No.1, which adds language to the state constitution that expressly states the document offers no protections for a right to abortion or the funding of abortion. The constitution will now say, “Nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
This amendment is a “trigger law” that prevents the state courts from declaring abortion restrictions unconstitutional at the state level should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
Which state voted to legalize drugs other than marijuana?
Oregon voters supported Measure 110, which makes personal non-commercial possession of a controlled substance—such as heroin, cocaine, and meth—no more than a Class E violation (max fine of $100 fine) and establishes a drug-addiction treatment and recovery program funded in part by the state’s marijuana tax revenue and state prison savings.
Voters also authorized a measure to allow the Oregon Health Authority to create a program to permit licensed service providers to administer psilocybin-producing mushroom and fungi products to individuals 21 years of age or older.
In 2014, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis for recreational use.
Washington, D.C., also approved a measure to decriminalize psychedelic plants. This ballot initiative declared that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of “entheogenic plants and fungi” among the lowest law enforcement priorities and defines entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn.
Which states voted on recreational marijuana?
Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. All but South Dakota had previously legalized marijuana for medicinal uses.
Eleven other states and the District of Columbia had previously legalized recreational marijuana use.
Which states voted on medical marijuana?
Mississippi voters approved an initiative to establish a medical marijuana program for patients with debilitating conditions.
South Dakota voters also approved a measure to legalize medical marijuana for individuals with a debilitating medical condition. Measure 26 will establish a medical cannabis program and registration system for people with qualifying conditions.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
Which states have criminal justice related initiatives?
The states that considered some form initiative to reform their state’s criminal justice system are California, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Utah.
California voted on three separate criminal-justice-related initiatives. Voters approved Proposition 17, a constitutional amendment to allow people on parole for felony convictions to vote. But voters rejected Proposition 20, which added crimes to the list of violent felonies for which early parole is restricted; recategorized certain types of theft and fraud crimes as wobblers (chargeable as misdemeanors or felonies); and required DNA collection for certain misdemeanors). With the final result so far too close to call, California voters also appear to have rejected Proposition 25, which upholds the contested legislation that would replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects awaiting trials.
Voters in Kentucky approved Constitutional Amendment 1, which adds specific rights of crime victims, together known as Marsy’s Law, to the Kentucky Constitution. The measure provides crime victims with specific constitutional rights, including: the right to be treated with fairness and due consideration for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy; to be notified about proceedings; to be heard at proceedings involving release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; to proceedings free from unreasonable delays; to be present at trials; to consult with the state’s attorneys; to reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on behalf of the accused; to be notified about release or escape of the accused; to have the victim and victim’s family’s safety considered when setting bail or determining release; and to receive restitution from the individual who committed the criminal offense.
In Oklahoma, voters rejected State Question 805, which would have amended the Oklahoma Constitution to end the use of sentence enhancements (i.e., additional prison time) for people convicted of nonviolent crimes. This leaves the current sentencing in place and allows people who were sentenced to prison in the state to have their sentences extended if they had prior felony convictions.
Nebraska voters supported removing language from the Nebraska Constitution that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. Since the Nebraska Constitution was ratified in 1875 it has prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishments for those convicted of crimes. Amendment 1 repeals the exception for criminal punishment.
Voters in Utah also supported removing language from their state constitution that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments. Constitutional Amendment C repeals the exception for criminal punishment. (As of 2020, Nebraska and Utah were two of the 12 states whose constitutions ban slavery and involuntary servitude but include an exception for criminal punishment.)
Which states legalized casino gambling?
Nebraska became to the latest state to legalize casino gambling. Voters enacted Initiative 430, a law that authorizes gambling operations within licensed racetracks and establishes the Nebraska Gaming Commission to regulate gambling operations. This initiatives, along with 429 and 431, will allow, authorize, regulate, and tax gambling at licensed racetracks.
What is Mississippi’s state flag ballot initiative?
Mississippi voters supported an initiative to adopted a new official Mississippi state flag as designed by the Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag, which may not contain the Confederate Battle Flag and must include the words “In God We Trust.” During its next regular session in 2021, the state legislature will enact into law the new design as Mississippi’s official state flag.
The previous Mississippi state flag, adopted by the state legislature in 1894, included as an emblem the Confederate Battle Cross (also known as the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War). Mississippi’s state flag was the last remaining state flag to features the battle flag prominently in its design.