Ballot Initiative Wins and Losses across America

Term limits, gas taxes, rent control and marijuana legalization were among the issues put to a vote.

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On Tuesday, a likely hundred million people went to the polls to vote in the country’s midterm elections.

Regular news readers have seen the broad outlines of the results already—and many have likely taken deep dives into the nitty-gritty of state legislatures, county judgeships and other races. But how about the ballot initiatives?

Voters in 37 states made decisions on a total of 157 statewide ballot measures, to say nothing of the city-level ballot measures many voters decided on.

Here, Next City has rounded up some of the most important results. This list is by no means comprehensive or complete, but this sampling represents some of the ballot measures we deemed important for urbanists.

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to 1.5 million former felons. Florida was one of only four states that more or less permanently disenfranchised felons who had served their time (people who had served their sentences could appeal to the governor, but Rick Scott re-enfranchised just 3,000 people in seven years, NPR reported). The amendment required 60 percent support to pass, and 64 percent of Floridians voted to approve it. A day-after analysis suggested that had Amendment 4 been in place prior to election night, Florida may have elected a Democratic senator and governor.

California’s Prop 10, an initiative to allow cities to expand rent control, failed last night; the San Francisco Chronicle reports that opponents outspent proponents 3 to 1. But Proposition 6, to repeal California’s gas tax, also failed, which means the state still has a $5-billion funding stream for infrastructure and transportation spending, such as connecting the LA Metro to LAX. Gov. Jerry Brown celebrated the defeat of Proposition 6, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, telling a crowd of people: “People know you get what you pay for. We have built hundreds of thousands of miles of roads and highways, and you got to keep them fixed up. Everybody knows, if you don’t fix your roof, it leaks.”

Coloradans voted to restrict payday lending by passing a 36 percent cap on interest rates, winning the support of more than 75 percent of voters, the Denver Post reports. Previous state law had allowed interest rates of up to 200 percent, though the average in 2016 was 129.5 percent, the Coloradoan reported. The campaign supporting Proposition 111, the payday loan cap, said there was evidence that a single payday loan kept “many consumers mired in debt for more than half the year.”

Elsewhere, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana and Missouri became the 31st state to legalize medical marijuana, USA TODAY reported.

At the city level, New York City residents voted to impose term limits on community board members, lower the amount of campaign finance contributions a single candidate can receive, and create a Civic Engagement Commission, which would centralize engagement initiatives and assist community boards, among other things.

Baltimore, Maryland also passed a unique initiative: Ballot question E, which passed with around 77 percent of the vote, bans privatization of the city’s water and sewer system. Food and Water Watch reports that it’s the first city in the country to do so.

“With water corporations circling around Baltimore over the past several years, ramped-up privatization ploys last Spring, and a federal administration hellbent on propping up corporate power over peoples’ rights, it is momentous that the city has voted to keep its water public,” said Rianna Eckel, Maryland Organizer, Food & Water Watch, in a statement.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said she supported the amendment; others worried, the Baltimore Sun reported, that a proposal she had made to allow new types of city contracting might have made it easier to privatize down the line.

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Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.

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Tags: affordable housinginfrastructureutilitiesmarijuanavoting rights

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