While the major story of Tuesday’s elections was, of course, the historic re-election of President Barack Barack Obama, some big progressive victories on many of the 174 statewide questions on the ballot will also have a potentially huge impact on the nation’s public policy.
Here are some of the most important victories:
1. Immigration: Unofficial numbers show Marylanders endorsed Question 4, a state DREAM Act, passed by the legislature, by more than a 16 point margin. The law will now allow eligible undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities.
2. Marriage equality: The anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage has lost its principal talking point and can no longer claim that every time voters considered marriage equality, equality loses. Voters in Maryland passed Question 6. Voters in Maine enacted Question 1. Early results suggest that Washington State voters likely backed Referendum 74. All three states will now provide marriage equality for same-sex couples, joining Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. Minnesotans also rejected a proposed marriage inequality amendment Amendment 1. While the Minnesota result will not automatically grant marriage equality, it sends a strong message to the state’s new Democratic majority in the state legislature.
3. Marijuana: Both Colorado’s Amendment 64 and Washington’s Initiative 502 passed. The measures will legalize and regulate sales of small quantities of marijuana to residents 21 years and older under those states’ laws — though federal law still prohibits it. Massachusetts voted overwhelmingly in support of a new medical marijuana law, Question 3.
4. Voter Suppression: Minnesota voters rejected Amendment 2, which would have amended the state’s constitution to require all voters “to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters.” Voting rights groups opposed the effort, as in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent. While polls initially showed statewide support for the measure, the more voters learned about the idea, the less they liked it.
5. Abortion rights: Florida defeated Amendment 6, a misleading proposal, characterized as ban on “public funding” of abortion, but prohibiting any public funds from going to “health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion.” The amendment garnered just 45 percent of the vote, well short of the 60 percent needed to pass.
6. Unions rights: Californians defeated Proposition 32, which would have effectively prevented labor unions from collecting money from their membership to pay for political activities. The unbalanced proposal would have done nothing about corporations which, thanks to Citizens United, can spend as much of their corporate treasury funds on electioneering as they wish. This misleading proposal — dressed up as a campaign finance reform effort — was pushed by a wealthy Republican activist and the Koch-linked America’s Future Fund.
7. State land seizure: Arizona overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 120, a proposal which would have declared state sovereignty “over the air, water, public lands, wildlife and other natural resources” within Arizona’s borders. The question, which was referred by the state legislature, was widely viewed as an unconstitutional effort to seize federal lands, including the Grand Canyon.
8. The Courts: Florida voters strongly rejected Amendment 5, which would have grant the state legislature more control over state’s supreme court. The proposal would have required confirmation of judges by the state senate and allowed them to override the Supreme Court’s decisions on judicial rules and procedures by a simple majority vote. Missouri defeated Constitutional Amendment 3, which would have give the governor increased power to appoint the commission that makes state judicial nominees. Arizona also overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 115 — backed by Gov. Jan Brewer (R) — aimed at giving the governor more influence over the nonpartisan commission that makes judicial nominations.