Around the country, voters not only elected candidates Tuesday but voted to approve or reject laws themselves, grappling with some 175 ballot measures that addressed gay marriage, taxes and racist language, as well as many other issues.
In addition, voters considered whether to overturn a dozen laws that had already won approval from their legislatures and governors. This was the highest instance of so-called citizens’ vetoes in any election dating back to 1920 and double the number in 2008 and 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Among the laws being challenged were same-sex-marriage rights in Maryland and Washington state. Maine voters, having overturned a gay marriage through a citizens’ veto in 2009, voted again on the issue today, thanks to an initiative put on the ballot by voter petition.
Minnesota voters considered a ban on gay marriage. Voters have banned gay marriage in all 32 states where they’ve had the chance, dating to 1998.
Social issues were also on the ballot in several other states. Marijuana legalization was under consideration in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, while voters in Arkansas and Massachusetts considered blessing marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
Massachusetts voters also considered allowing physicians to assist in suicides for terminally ill patients. Abortion-related measures were on the ballot in Florida and Montana.
Californians will decide whether to end the death penalty, which has not been used in the state since a judge put the practice on hold in 2006.
Voters in various states considered proposals to limit taxes. New Hampshire doesn’t impose a state income tax, but voters were given the chance to put a ban on income taxes in the state Constitution. Oregon voters considered whether to phase out the estate tax.
But there were also tax increases on the ballot in several states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri and South Dakota. A measure backed by California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown would raise both sales and income taxes.
Despite his warnings that the state budget would have to be cut by $6 billion if the measure didn’t pass, voters appeared to have soured on the idea, according to polls. Brown’s proposal also had to compete with a tax increase to fund education, which was backed by Molly Munger, an heir to a Berkshire Hathaway fortune.
She spent some $44 million on the proposition — one of several examples of millionaires spending freely on ballot measures this year.
California voters also considered a measure that would ban unions from automatically deducting dues from members to fund political activity. The main teachers union in Idaho also sought to block a trio of education laws enacted last year from taking effect, including legislation that would end tenure.
Unions have been under considerable political pressure at the state level over the past couple of years. In Michigan, they sought to win constitutional protection for collective bargaining rights.
Voters in a couple of states decided whether to amend constitutions to delete outdated language. As they did eight years ago, Alabama voters decided whether to excise racist language regarding poll taxes and the like dating to the era of segregation. Some unions and African-American leaders, however, warned that the measure was a backdoor attempt to cut school funding.
In North Dakota, voters also decided whether to erase references to poll taxes in the state Constitution, as well as language referring to “paupers” and “idiots.”