Many of these are still unsettled as of this writing (I'll update in the morning), but some interesting stuff going on:
While the general election might not break partisan gridlock in Congress, it could result in historic changes for U.S. social policy: Several states had a chance to be the first to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote and to legalize recreational use of marijuana.
Dating back to 1998, same-sex marriage has been rejected in all 32 states that have held popular votes on the issue. Gay-rights advocates believed they had a chance to break that streak as Maine, Maryland and Washington voted on ballot measures to legalize same-sex marriage, and Minnesota voted on whether to place a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution.
Incomplete returns showed close contests in Maine and Maryland.
Marijuana legalization was on the ballot in Washington, Oregon and Colorado; each measure would allow adults to possess small amounts of pot under a regimen of state regulation and taxation. The Oregon proposal had lagged, but the Washington and Colorado measures were believed to have a decent chance of passage.
If approved, the measures would set up a direct challenge to federal drug law.
In Massachusetts, voters approved a measure to allow marijuana use for medical reasons, joining 17 other states. Arkansas voters were deciding on a similar measure that would make it the first Southern state in that group.
In California, voters were deciding whether to repeal the state’s death penalty. If the measure prevailed, the more than 720 inmates on death row there would have their sentences converted to life in prison.
While 17 states have ended capital punishment, most did so through legislative action. Only in Oregon, in 1964, did voters choose to repeal the death penalty; they later reversed themselves to reinstate it.
In all, there were 176 measures on the ballots Tuesday in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.
Maine’s referendum on same-sex marriage marked the first time that gay-rights supporters put the issue to a popular vote. They collected enough signatures over the summer to schedule the vote, hoping to reverse the outcome of a 2009 referendum that quashed a gay-marriage law enacted by the Legislature.
In both Maryland and Washington, gay-marriage laws were approved by lawmakers and signed by the governors earlier this year, but opponents gathered enough signatures to challenge the laws.
These are the ones that were called by midnight:
- Here's one that will make a lot of people happy: Medical marijuana passed in Massachusetts. (Guess we know what Scott Brown will be doing about that post-election depression!)
- In a real squeaker, marriage equality passed in Maryland, and that make Gov. Martin O'Malley a very serious contender for higher office, since he expended a lot of his political capital to make this happen.
Maryland also voted to pass the state's DREAM Act and expand gambling in the state.
- The Michigan Clean Energy Mandate Initiative which would require 25% renewables by 2025, went down.
- Oklahoma voters banned affirmative action.
- In Florida, voters soundly rejected funding for religious schools, to keep the mandatory requirement for health insurance, and a bill that would ban insurance coverage of abortion in state health benefit plans.
- Alabama embraced a plan that would reject mandatory insurance (aka Obamacare).
- North Dakota passed a smoking ban.