The gun debate usually focuses on the federal government, where Congress has rejected any and all measures related to gun control and where President Barack Obama has issued a series of controversial executive orders. But there was plenty of movement on the issue at the state level.
Maine's Question 3 addresses background checks for purchasing or transferring firearms. CNN projects Maine voted against requiring background checks for sales by non-licensed dealers.
's Question 1 would make it so people can't sell or transfer firearms to one another without a licensed dealer conducting a federal background check. Voters narrowly approved the proposal, according to unofficial tallies from the Nevada secretary of state
Washington's Initiative No. 1491 would allow courts to issue temporary orders at the request of police, family or household members to prevent people "exhibiting mental illness, violent or other behavior indicating they may harm themselves or others" from having access to guns. CNN projects Washington supported court-ordered temporary bans on firearms.
Raising the minimum wage has become a focal point for progressives in the United States. The "fight for 15" has taken hold. Although these states don't have $15 minimum wages on their ballots, voters supported raising rates by the year 2020.
Arizona's Proposition 206: The minimum hourly wage will go from its current $8.05 to $12 by 2020, and employees will get paid sick time. CNN projects voters have approved the proposition.
Colorado's Amendment 70: This would raise Colorado's minimum wage to $9.30 as of January 1, 2017, and gradually raise it to $12 per hour as of January 2020. CNN projects the amendment has passed.
Maine's Question 4: Proposes raising the minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 by 2020 and ties it to the cost of living from then on. CNN projects voters have backed raising the minimum wage.
Washington's Initiative 1433: The minimum wage increases to $13.50 by 2020. The initiative has been passed, according to CNN projections.
Following in the footsteps of Colorado, Oregon and Washington, more states are looking to legalize marijuana for recreational use
. Other states are looking to approve it for medical purposes.
Arizona's Proposition 205 would create the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control and allow for the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 and older.
' Ballot Issues 6 and 7: Both of these issues would allow for medical marijuana in the state. Issue 6 is an amendment to the state's constitution and Issue 7 is the passage of an act. An amendment is far more difficult to reverse, whereas the state Legislature could dismantle the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act should it choose to do so. The Arkansas secretary of state released a notice saying votes for Issue 7 will not be counted or certified because of a court order, while voters approved Issue 6, according to unofficial results from the office.
's Proposition 64 would make recreational marijuana legal for those 21 and older. House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi backed
the measure, which voters approved, according to CNN projections.
's Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2 allows the use of medical marijuana for "debilitating" conditions. Voters approved the measure, according to unofficial Florida secretary of state counts
Maine's Question 1 makes marijuana legal for people 21 and older, with the product subject to state regulation.
Massachusetts' Question 4 allows for recreational use of pot for people 21 and older. CNN projects voters approved the measure, which would also legalize the distribution and cultivation of marijuana for those 21 and older.
's Initiative 182 legalizes marijuana for medical purposes as prescribed by a physician. Voters approved the measure, according to unofficial Montana secretary of state counts.
Nevada's Question 2 allows for the recreational use of pot for people 21 and older. It would also establish a 15% excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales and apply the existing sales tax to retail marijuana sales. Net revenue would go towards education. CNN projects voters approved the measure.
's Initiated Statutory Measure No. 5 legalizes the use of medical marijuana. Voters passed this measure, according to unofficial results on the North Dakota secretary of state's office website
Once banned, then brought back, the death penalty now exists in a piecemeal fashion with executions a reality or a thing of the past, depending on the state. More recently, states have had difficulty imposing the penalty simply because they cannot obtain the drugs required to kill a person by lethal injection. Here's the action on this issue:
's Proposition 62 repeals the death penalty, while Proposition 66 changes rules around the legal system regarding the death penalty, with the intent of speeding up the time line from conviction to execution. The "no" votes had a significant lead on the issue of repealing the death penalty with all but a handful of votes left to count, according to unofficial tallies on the secretary of state website
's Referendum No. 426 allows voters decide whether to "retain" or "repeal" an act passed by the Nebraska Legislature last year eliminating the death penalty. A vote to "retain" is a vote against the death penalty; a vote to "repeal" is a vote for the death penalty. Gov. Pete Ricketts personally invested money in the "repeal" campaign, and voters sided with him. Unofficial results from the Nebraska secretary of state's office
showed 60% support for repeal and 39% for retain.
's State Question No. 776 increases the state's options for execution to potentially any method "not prohibited" by the US Constitution. Given the difficulty states are having securing lethal drugs, Oklahoma is trying to expand its options for execution. According to the state's election board
, vote totals show the measure to increase execution options passed.
Progressives are spearheading major initiatives in health care, pitting their organizing power against, principally, the pharmaceutical industry.
Proposition 61 would require that state agencies, when purchasing prescription drugs, pay no more than "the lowest price paid for the same drug by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs." There's a lot going on with this proposition, but one thing to keep in mind is that it could represent the extent to which Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' "political revolution" has influence. Sanders personally supports this measure and has gone to California on its behalf. If it passes, it is a loss for the pharmaceutical industry. Unofficials totals from the secretary of state's office showed voters rejected the measure.
's Amendment 69 establishes a state-run health care system, dubbed "Coloradocare." Approval of Coloradocare would amount to a major transformation for Colorado state government. Voters opted against the measure in a landslide, according to the Colorado secretary of state's office's
Additionally, Colorado's Proposition 106 would allow "any mentally capable adult Colorado resident" who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness to gain access to drugs to end his or her life. CNN projects Colorado has voted to allow physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.
Legal challenges at all levels, new machinations from lawyers and the composition of the Federal Election Commission have all combined to allow more money in our political process. With this being seen as increased free speech to some and in-kind corruption to others, a few states are looking at creating their own campaign finance rules.
's Constitutional Amendment 2 would, among other things, "establish limits on campaign contributions" for state and judicial candidates. Should this pass, Missouri would be offering a wholly different model from federal campaigns. On the federal level, the US Supreme Court has repeatedly thrown out limits on campaign contributions. Voters passed this amendment, according to unofficial results posted by the Missouri secretary of state's office
's Initiated Measure 22 would create the option for a publicly funded campaign finance program. This measure passed, according to unofficial results from the South Dakota secretary of state's office
's Initiatives 735 and 1464 are both campaign finance measures. 735 tells the legislature to propose an amendment to the US Constitution declaring that corporations do not have constitutional rights and that free speech "excludes the spending of money." 1464 would create a public financing system for campaigns. Initiative 735 passed while 1464 did not pass, according to results posted by the Washington secretary of state office.
The price per pack could go up a bit in several states should ballot measures pass. The tax increases on tobacco products could discourage people from smoking and increase state revenues by taxing those who do light up.
's Proposition 56 would raise taxes on cigarettes by $2 a pack. The measure says the revenues would exceed $1 billion in 2017-2018 and go to health care and tobacco control programs. With the majority of the votes counted, yes votes had a lead of more than 20 percent, according to the secretary of state's unofficial tally.
's Proposed Initiative 143, aka Amendment 72, would raise taxes on cigarettes by $1.75 a pack. The measure says the revenues would go to health care and tobacco control programs. Voters said no thank you to the new tax, according to unofficial results on the secretary of state's website
's Constitutional Amendment No. 3 would raise taxes on cigarettes by 2020 by 60 cents per pack and on tobacco wholesalers by 67 cents per pack. The revenues would go into a fund for child education and health. The proposed amendment was not approved, according to the unofficial results from the Missouri secretary of state's office
's Initiated Statutory Measure No. 4 would raise taxes on cigarettes to $2.20 a pack. The money would go to the state, a veterans' fund and a community health fund. Voters did not approve the measure, the North Dakota secretary of state's website reports
, citing unofficial tallies.
Other ballot measures of note
Amendment 14 is an attempt to avoid a potentially huge issue for Alabama at all levels of government. The gist of it is that voters passed an amendment decades ago that requires the Legislature to vote on its budget before everything else. The Legislature has gotten around that by first voting on a resolution to bypass the rule and vote on other things before the budget. Many of these votes have passed with only a handful of legislators agreeing to bypass the budget rule. This has gone on for a long time and potentially hundreds of laws have been passed this way. Jump to current-day Alabama, where a judge ruled one of these laws was invalid. Passing the amendment would mean the judge's ruling no longer stands, things continue as they are and all of the local rules stay in place. Failure to pass the amendment could bring about the end of all these rules built over decades and force the Legislature to focus first on its budget. Alabamans overwhelmingly approved the amendment, however, according to the secretary of state's unofficial results
Currently, when the governor of Arkansas goes to another state or country, he or she is no longer effectively the governor, and the lieutenant governor assumes authority. If Arkansas' Ballot Issue No. 2 passes, the governor stays fully in power even when he or she is outside the state. The existing rule was written well before modern communications technology. Voters OK'd the ballot issue, according to the secretary of state's website
Criminal justice in California and Oklahoma:
California's Proposition 57 could make it easier for "nonviolent" offenders to get out early on parole. Oklahoma's State Question No. 780 would lessen some property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. California's proposition seems destined for passage, according to near-complete unofficial results from the secretary of state, and Oklahoma's measure passed, according to the state elections board's unofficial results.
The nation's capital has long pushed to become its own state, and 2016 will be no different. Advisory Referendum B expresses the will of voters of DC for the city council to petition Congress to make DC its own state, called "the State of New Columbia." Unofficial results from the DC Board of Elections show DC voted in favor of the statehood measure
Georgia's failing schools:
Amendment 1 would allow the state's General Assembly to take over a failing school district via the creation of an "Opportunity School District." The proposal, backed by Gov. Nathan Deal, has been the subject of much debate following years of clashes between failing local schools and state and county governments. Deal managed to make matters harder for his side when he said
Amendment 1 would help "colored people," a comment he later called a misstatement. Voters did not pass the amendment, according to unofficial results from the Georgia secretary of state's office.
Right to hunt in Indiana and Kansas:
The only public question on the ballot in both Indiana and Kansas would amend each state's constitution to provide a constitutional right to "hunt, fish and harvest wildlife." Both constitutional amendments enjoyed robust support, according to unofficial tallies from the Indiana and Kansas secretaries of state.
Voting reform in Maine: Maine's Question 5 establishes a new voting system allowing people to "rank their choices." This state has a large number of independent political candidates, and this rule could make things easier for those who wish to vote outside of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Big business in Oregon: Oregon's Measure 97 increases taxes on businesses when "sales exceed $25 million."
Organize (or not) in South Dakota and Virginia:
South Dakota's Initiated Measure 23 allows unions to charge nonmembers fees. South Dakota is currently a right-to-work state, and this rule would strengthen labor unions there. Virginia's Question 1 would create a constitutional amendment banning union-only workplaces. Virginia is already a right-to-work state, so this measure would codify right-to-work into the state constitution, making it harder to repeal in the future. South Dakota voters overwhelmingly shot down the measure, according to unofficial results from the South Dakota secretary of state's office. Virginia voters also rejected the measure, with more than 99% of the vote counted, according to the Virginia Department of Elections' unofficial count.
Washington state's Initiated Measure No. 732 creates a carbon emission tax, while its Advisory Vote No. 15 allows voters to repeal or maintain a tax exemption for alternative-fuel vehicles. Voters nixed the proposal for a carbon emissions tax, and they voted to repeal the tax exemption, according to unofficial results from the Washington secretary of state's office.
Beyond the states, voters in four cities -- San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, California, along with Boulder, Colorado -- approved a so-called "soda tax"
on sugar-sweetened drinks.
The three Northern California cities approved the soda tax by wide margins, according to unofficial results on their city and county websites.
Boulder passed a tax on sugary drinks in a closer race, according to unofficial results.