Numerous important ballot issues were largely unnoticed in the media’s coverage of Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election.
Voters across the country offered their take on legislative ideas, particularly affirming marijuana usage, enacting stricter gun laws and increasing the minimum wage.
Marijuana had a good night. Voters in four states – Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota – passed measures to allow medical marijuana, joining 25 other states and the District of Columbia.
Measures to allow recreational marijuana, which is a much broader use than merely for medicinal purposes, passed in four of the five states where it appeared on the ballot.
While voters in Arizona rejected the measure, voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada approved it. Previously, only Colorado and Washington allowed recreational marijuana.
Proponents of stricter gun laws saw a mostly good night.
A successful measure in California will lead to the prohibition of possessing large capacity ammunition magazines and the requirement of background checks for ammunition purchases.
Measures to require background checks for many non-licensed dealers passed in Nevada but failed in Maine. Washington voters approved a measure to allow some temporary restrictions on obtaining firearms for individuals with violent behavior or mental illness.
Similar measures on increasing the minimum wage found support from voters in Arizona, Colorado and Maine. Each measure will gradually increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020, although the speed of the increases varies in the states.
Another minimum wage measure passed in Washington that will gradually increase the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020.
Other measures on Tuesday also touched on a variety of moral and ethical concerns.
Voters in Colorado voted overwhelmingly to allow physician-assisted suicide. The law will enable residents, in consultation with two doctors, to take their own lives.
Five other states already allow some form of physician-assisted suicide: California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Voters in three states offered their support for capital punishment.
Nebraskans overwhelmingly voted to reinstate the death penalty, which the state legislature abolished last year, while Californians rejected a measure to repeal the death penalty.
Oklahomans passed a measure declaring capital punishment is not cruel or unusual and amending the state’s constitution to allow the use of “any method of execution.”
Voters in New Mexico passed a constitutional amendment banning the detention of criminal defendants solely on the basis of their inability to pay a bill.
A state constitutional amendment requiring photo identification for voting was approved in Missouri. The state joins more than a dozen other states with photo identification requirements, most of which added the requirements in the past decade.
Advocates of religious liberty celebrated the defeat of three state measures – in Missouri, New Jersey and Oklahoma – that threatened to undermine church-state separation.
Before the vote, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty urged Baptists in Oklahoma to reject the measure that would have removed a state constitutional prohibition against public money and property being used to support a religion.
While pundits and activists continue to debate the potential implications of a Donald Trump presidency, the impact of the successful ballot measures are more clear as they will soon impact people’s lives.
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.