More than 140 ballot measures to amend state laws were in play yesterday. Here’s a sampling of the results that matter:
Sentencing reform passes in “three strikes” California.
Nearly 60 percent of California voters passed Prop. 47, which reduces sentences for simple drug possession and certain theft from a felony to a misdemeanor. It’s projected to reduce sentences for tens of thousands of men and women annually. Following California’s 2008 Marsy’s Law, Illinois voters approved an amendment giving crime victims more rights during criminal prosecutions. And bail reform, which the ACLU predicts will end imprisonment for those who can’t afford bail, passed in New Jersey.
Red state voters want higher minimum wage, too.
Four Republican-majority states—Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota-voted to increase their minimum wage. Nearly 70 percent of Illinois voters also approved a wage hike in a non-binding ballot. San Francisco joined Seattle in raising its minimum wage to $15-an-hour, the highest anywhere in the nation. In other news about the quality of life of low-wage-workers, Massachusetts becomes the third state to mandate paid sick leave, along with municipalities Montclair and Trenton in New Jersey and Oakland’s new law will expand on California’s.
Alabama bans Sharia law.
Seventy-two percent of voters approved the “American and Alabama Laws and Alabama Courts Amendment,” which prevents state courts and other legal authorities from applying foreign laws that violate the rights of Alabama citizens. The amendment has been described as an attack on Muslims. Defenders say it has wider application but that it will prevent Sharia from being argued in custody cases, for example. Six states have similar “foreign laws” bans. And according to Governing, a federal appeals court this year struck down Oklahoma’s, which explicitly mentioned Sharia, for being discriminatory.
Weed is legal in the nation’s capital.
Marijuana arrests are a major driver in the mass incarceration of black and brown people. Tuesday’s elections mean that weed is now legal in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C, joining Colorado and Washington state. Read the fine print on each state and district amendment before lighting up in public, however.
Public funds for private preschool fails.
Hawaii voters rejected the use of public funds for private preschool programs. About half of the state’s school children according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, enter kindergarten without a preschool education.
Abortion and reproductive health battles continue.
Amendments extending rights to the unborn fetus failed in Colorado and North Dakota. But, Tennessee voters passed an amendment explicitly stating that nothing in it, ”secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”
Don’t drive while undocumented in Oregon.
Nearly 70 percent of Oregon voters defeated a measure that would have issued “driver’s cards” to people without proof of legal residence in the U.S.
Louisiana says no to 9th Ward redevelopment plan in New Orleans.
Nearly 60 percent of voters rejected a constitutional amendment allowing the governing body of New Orleans to sell Lower 9th Ward properties to private individuals at prices as low as $100 per abandoned parcel. Modeled after similar programs in Harlem, Baltimore and Detroit, according to The Times-Picayune, the defeated amendment aimed to jumpstart the redevelopment process in the Lower 9th Ward.