By Maura James
Finally, after a brutal campaign season the United States has peacefully re-elected the forty-fourth president of the United States. From four-year olds in the swing state of Ohio to grandmothers in the red state of Texas there is one fact over which all Americans are rejoicing this week – the campaign, including the relentless attack adds sponsored by super PACs, is over! The world can be thankful that the victory was decisive enough that we do not have to listen to Wolf Blitzer and Martin Bashir explain the difference between the popular vote and electoral college vote in a multitude of confusing ways while the outcome of the elections hangs in the balance of the Supreme Court for days (circa 2000).
In the aftermath of the Obama/Romney campaign the world should remember that America is a country of issues, and every first Tuesday in November Americans do not just vote for elected officials but also state measures. This year was no exception, and though over shadowed by the presidential race, there were some pretty big issues on the ballot. In my home state of Maryland everything from same-sex marriage to increased gambling was in the hands of voters. In addition to same-sex marriage, on many ballots this year, was medical marijuana, assisted suicide, death penalty repeals, mandatory health care repeals, and illegal immigrant reform. I will briefly recap results of some issues here.
Washington State, Minnesota, Maryland, and Maine all had same-sex marriage measures on the ballot. Washington, Maryland, and Maine voted to legalize same-sex marriage, while Minnesota narrowly failed to pass an amendment banning same-sex marriage. In all states the vote was close, with a gap of four or five percentage points in most states. Legislative bans, similar to the Minnesota ban on same-sex marriage, are a current popular trend in US state legislatures. It allows states to pre-emptively illegalize social measures or, in the case of healthcare, federal government mandates. Later legislatures can reverse laws put into place by these bans, and issues can be taken to court to overturn the ban.
A large state issue this year was health-care with five states voting on mandatory health care bans or measures. With Obamacare slated to begin in 2014, this was an important issue not just for state citizens but for the president to watch as well. The results were mixed. In Florida the measure to reject mandatory insurance was narrowly turned down. With a large elderly population, it seems that voters were convinced seniors would be safe and perhaps benefit from the Obama healthcare reforms. In Missouri, Alabama, and Wyoming mandatory healthcare was rejected by a strong majority. This will make 2014 all the more interesting since states have put measures in place today to prevent federal health care intervention.
Though the DREAM act to allow children of illegal immigrants, many of whom were brought into the United States as babies, to receive services and funding for higher education has been shot down in the federal congress many times, states took the issue to the polls this past Tuesday. Maryland narrowly passed legislation to allow children access to funds for university if they have served in the military and/or attended two years of community college. Whereas Montana overwhelmingly passed a bill that denies illegal immigrants basic services and subsequently forces many of them to choose to leave the state or country.
These ballot measures, though rarely covered by international media especially during a presidential campaign, are barometers of the nation. When many pundits and theorists claim populations are moving to extremes, these issues offer concrete evidence of where a state and nation stand. Seeing how close many of these votes were suggests the American public is more in the middle than the world usually thinks. Looking at state-by-state results gives legislators an idea of how difficult it will be to find compromise in Washington. Better than any presidential vote, these issues offer a window into American politics and the way the nation is headed in the next four years.
To see an interactive map of all the election results from Tuesday and the specific map on ballot issues used as a reference in this article go to Politico.
Correction: November 13th, 2012
The original version of this article stated that Minnesota passed a ban on same sex marriage. This amendment did not pass.