There was more to election day than a historic presidential vote. Across the country, voters considered 162 ballot measures in 35 states, ushering in sweeping changes involving the legalization of marijuana, the future of the death penalty, the regulation of guns, the minimum wage, health care and even changes in how bail bonds are administered.
Legal marijuana took a huge step forward on Election Day, with three states voting to allow recreational use and four approving the drug for medical purposes. California, Massachusetts and Nevada became the fifth, sixth and seventh states to create legal weed markets. (A measure in Maine was too close to call on Nov. 9.) That means more than 20% of Americans now live in a state where the drug is legal. The only state to reject a referendum on the drug was Arizona, where voters said no to recreational marijuana. The vote in California–the country’s most populous state and the world’s sixth largest economy–is expected to transform the nation’s fledgling legal marijuana industry and could potentially lead to loosening of federal regulations.
Voters chose to tighten restrictions on firearms in three of the four states where such measures were on the ballot. In Nevada, voters barely approved a measure to expand background checks to private gun sales and transfers, with 50.45% in favor. A similar measure failed in Maine. California, meanwhile, voted to outlaw possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, require background checks for ammunition sales and allow the state to take firearms from people immediately after they’ve been convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor. Voters in Washington also approved a measure that allows courts to order the temporary seizure of guns from people who are judged to be a threat. Maine’s rejection of expanded background checks and the narrow support for them in Nevada shows the challenge facing even well-funded national organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, the advocacy group founded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, which spent tens of millions of dollars to build support for the measures.
Colorado split on two measures at the heart of the nation’s health care debate. The Centennial State became the sixth in the U.S. to allow a so-called right to die for terminally ill patients, one year after California passed a similar measure following the death of Brittany Maynard. Colorado’s law gives those with six months or less to live the ability to obtain life-ending medication. Patients would have to be diagnosed by two separate doctors and be deemed mentally competent, and will be required to administer the medication themselves. The law would also create immunity for physicians who prescribe life-ending medicine. The measure was modeled after Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, which passed in 1997. The referendum was supported by Maynard’s widower Dan Diaz. Maynard helped revive the aid-in-dying movement when she moved from California to Oregon in 2014 after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Coloradans rejected, however, a measure that would have created the nation’s first state-run single-payer health care system.
As California’s population becomes increasingly diverse, Golden State voters repealed an almost two-decade-old law requiring English-only classes in public schools. While the measure preserves a portion of the 1998 law that mandates that students show English proficiency, schools will now have the ability to develop bilingual and multilingual courses. Fewer than 5% of California’s public schools currently offer multilingual programs.
Maine became the first state to approve a system of ranked-choice voting, upending the way state races are decided. Voters will now rank candidates in order of preference, with the last-place finisher in each count eliminated until one earns a majority. Missouri, meanwhile, overwhelmingly passed an amendment requiring voters to show a photo ID at the ballot box. The state became the eighth to require photo ID, double the number that did so in 2012.
New Mexico set itself apart from the common practice of posting cash bail when voters approved a measure to prohibit the detention of defendants who aren’t a threat or flight risk simply because they can’t afford bail. The measure’s proponents say it’s designed to prevent poorer defendants, often from communities of color, from experiencing unnecessary financial hardship and to avoid placing undue burdens on people before they’ve been convicted of a crime.
Four states–Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington–voted to incrementally raise their minimum wages to at least $12 an hour by 2020, all well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Washington elected to raise its floor to $13.50. In South Dakota, voters rejected a measure to exclude workers under 18 from the state’s recent increase in its minimum wage to $8.55.
Oklahoma became the first state to add a section to its constitution that protects the death penalty and declares that it can’t be deemed cruel and unusual punishment by state courts. Voters in Nebraska reinstated capital punishment after a protracted back-and-forth battle between state legislators, who eliminated it last year, and Governor Pete Ricketts, who bankrolled the ballot measure to reinstate the penalty. In California, voters rejected a proposition that would’ve repealed the death penalty while approving one to speed up the state’s dysfunctional death-row-appeal process, which was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2014.
This appears in the November 21, 2016 issue of TIME.
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