Where GOP DIDN’T win: On ballot initiatives


Story highlights

Sally Kohn: Results of ballot initiatives favored progressive outcomes,defied GOP sweep

Three states voted to hike minimum wage even as they elected GOP candidates

Several states voted to legalize possession of small amounts of pot

Kohn: Restrictions on pregnant women failed in 2 states, passed in Tennessee

Editor’s Note: Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

Watching the returns in key congressional and gubernatorial races on election night, you might be forgiven for thinking the 2014 midterm elections were a slam dunk for Republicans, with voters roundly endorsing not only conservative candidates but also conservative ideas.

But that means you haven’t paid attention to the ballot measures. In votes on everything from “fetal personhood” amendments to the minimum wage, voters even in the reddest of red states sided with the progressive camp. As Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight succinctly summed it up in an Election Night tweet: “So voters want a higher minimum wage, legal pot, abortion access and GOP representation. Ok then.”

Sally Kohn
Courtesy Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

Here’s a look at the befuddling outcomes in ballot measure contests, contrasted with the other results on Election Night, and what they might portend for the future.

Minimum wage

Voters in three states – Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota – voted to approve increases in their state minimum wage rates. In Nebraska, for instance, voters decided to raise the state minimum wage from the current federal minimum of just $7.25 an hour to $8.00 in 2015 and $9.00 in 2016.

In South Dakota, voters approved a measure to raise the federal minimum wage up to $8.50 next year, and after that have their minimum wage increase with inflation. Voters in Alaska are also expected to approve a similar measure. And in Illinois, voters backed a nonbinding measure encouraging lawmakers to raise the minimum w