Ballot measures 2018: Florida votes to restore felon voting rights



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Actress Eva Longoria spoke about the importance of Latinos voting and finding common ground with fellow Americans.
USA TODAY

 

In one of the biggest Democratic victories of the 2018 election, Florida voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to restore voting rights to an estimated 1.5 million former felons, including roughly 500,000 African-Americans.

Elsewhere across the country there were progressive wins for the continued legalization of marijuana, a rejection of the conservative agenda in Oregon and more abortion restrictions passed in red states. 

Amendment 4 in Florida applies to felons who served their sentence, including parole and probation, but will not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses. The change is expected to affect future election results in Florida, as well as presidential races, because the state is often seen as competitive in national contests.

More: Florida amendments: What passed, failed in midterm election

Florida is one of only four states that permanently disenfranchised former felons.

Meanwhile, Missouri became the 31st state to legalize medical marijuana use Tuesday night with the passage of Amendment 2, according to multiple local media reports.

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Other ballot measures closely watched across the nation on Election Day included proposals involving recreational marijuana, abortion and sanctuary state status. Here are the measures to watch: 

Marijuana on ballot in four states

Michigan became the first Midwestern state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the 10th state overall to do so, with both CNN and NBC reporting that the state had passed Proposal 1. The initiative creates a system to regulate, tax and sell recreational marijuana to adults in the state.

“Western and northeastern states have led the way on legalizing marijuana, but the victory in Michigan powerfully demonstrates the national reach of this movement,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. “With such overwhelming public support for marijuana legalization, even including majorities of Republicans and older Americans, there’s only so long that the federal government can continue to hold out.”

Canada, Michigan’s neighbor to the north, legalized marijuana sales for adults in mid-October, which added pressured for Michigan to pass recreational use, too. 

In Missouri, three marijuana-related initiatives were on the ballot. Each of them legalized growing, manufacturing, selling and consuming marijuana and marijuana products for medicinal use at the state level, but differed in terms of how they tax marijuana and the freedom each gives potential home growers. 

Amendment 2, the measure that passed, will tax marijuana sales at 4 percent, with the proceeds funding veterans health care programs. Of the three, it was the only proposal that allowed for home-growing of marijuana. 

“Thanks to the unflagging efforts of patients and advocates, Missourians who could benefit from medical marijuana will soon be able to use it without fear of being treated like criminals,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. “There is near-universal support in the U.S. for providing seriously ill patients with legal access to medical cannabis. Most voters, regardless of their age, geographic location, or political persuasion, recognize the medical benefits of marijuana and believe it should be available to those who can benefit from it. Now that more than 30 states have enacted comprehensive medical marijuana laws, it is time for Congress to step up and address the issue at the federal level.”

Other states also were debating legal pot. Late Tuesday, Utah became the 32nd state to legalize medical marijuana use, but North Dakota residents struck down Measure 3, according to the Associated Press. Measure 3 would have been the nation’s most permissive recreational law, allowing residents to grow, consume and possess as much weed as they want, without any government oversight.

More: Legal marijuana states: Election Day brings pot debate to North Dakota, Utah, Michigan and Missouri voters

Out West, Utah has a complicated relationship with marijuana use when it comes to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is hugely influential in the state. More than 60 percent of the state’s 3 million residents are LDS members. 

More: Marijuana reform: New California law gives people with records a do-over

Prop. 2 had strong support in the weeks before the election. But then the LDS church starting running radio ads warning that medical legalization is the first step toward full legalization, which is at odds with a faith that teaches its followers to stay away from alcohol, coffee, tobacco and illegal drugs.

Under Utah law, lawmakers are able to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot measures, so the LDS church and proponents of Prop. 2 reached an agreement before the election that will amend the language to state that residents are banned from growing their own weed while trying to establish a state-run medical marijuana distribution network. Smoking marijuana will likely remain illegal, but sick people could be able to eat cannabis-infused foods or use vape pens. 

Schweich at the Marijuana Policy Project, previously told USA TODAY, “There’s a lot of voters who support marijuana in principle but didn’t want to go in opposition of the LDS church. The important thing about Utah is that we have made a compromise.” 

Anti-abortion measures in three states 

Elsewhere across the country, voters in West Virginia, Alabama and – surprisingly – Oregon voted on measures that would limit abortion. 

Alabama passed Amendment 2, according to The Associated Press, which makes it state policy to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.” It adds that no provisions of the Alabama Constitution provide the right to an abortion or require funding of abortions. 

West Virginians passed a similar measure with  Amendment 1, which will change the language of the West Virginia Constitution to say, “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” 

But Oregonians lived up to their progressive reputation, soundly defeating Measure 106, according to The Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting.  

Framed as a tax debate, Measure 106 would have amended the Oregon Constitution to not allow taxes to be used to pay for any elective abortions. 

More: Fight over abortion comes to Oregon as Republicans target reproductive rights in U.S.

That means any Oregon Medicaid patients, as well as any employees on state-funded health insurance, would not have had access to abortion. The measure would have impacted roughly 293,000 women, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority. 

Grayson Dempsey, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, previously told USA TODAY that the Oregon measure had national implications. 

 “In this world, with (Justice Brett) Kavanaugh on the (Supreme) Court, we need a state where we continue to hold the line on abortion care, or anti-abortion extremists are going to think they can make inroads anywhere,” she said. 

Tuesday night, Dempsey was euphoric after 106’s defeat. 

“It’s an incredible night,” she said. “It shows once again that even though that at the federal level and in some states they (Republicans) are more serious than ever in trying to take away rights, Oregonians show up to defend not only reproductive rights, but abortion access. I’m still so disappointed in what happened in Alabama, and that Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court, but we sent a strong message tonight that Oregon will always stand up for reproductive rights.” 

Oregon voting on sanctuary state status

Also in Oregon, residents voted down Measure 105 — which would have repealed the nation’s oldest sanctuary state law — according to the AP. 

More: Will liberal Oregon embrace Trump’s agenda? Ballot measure seeks to repeal sanctuary law protecting immigrants

Originally hailed as an anti-racial profiling law in 1987, Oregon’s sanctuary status has fallen under heavy criticism from President Donald Trump, as well as Oregonians For Immigration Reform, the backers of the initiative. In Oregon, 18 sheriffs from smaller counties signed a letter in support of passing Measure 105. The Southern Poverty Law Center deemed Oregonians For Immigration Reform a hate group, and had pushed back against the bill. 

Note: This story will be updated as more election results become available. 

 

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