Election 2014  
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Major Progressive Victories (and Some Defeats) in Ballot Measures Across the Country

From gay marriage to education funding to healthcare -- there were some huge policy issues Americans voted on.

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6. Obamacare

The law that red state Republicans love to hate—the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare—saw more states with sizeable populations of uninsured residents thumbing their noses at federal efforts to provide health care. After the Affordable Care Act became law, four states passed ballot measures saying no individual or business would be forced to participate in a healthcare system (Arizona, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma). Colorado’s voters rejected a similar statement. On Tuesday, more states said no.

Alabama appeared to reject Obamacare, voting 65 percent to 35 percent, with three-quarters of precincts reporting. Montana also appeared to be rejecting Obamacare by the same big margins, by prohibiting the federal government from imposing a tax penalty on people who did not have an insurance plan. Missouri voters passed Proposition E, which bans their governor and executive branch from creating state health insurance exchanges—the part of Obamacare where individuals can buy into a group policy. Wyoming voters also strongly supported a measure giving state residents and its Legislature power to make their health care decisions, another snub of Obamacare.

However, in Florida, voters had more sense and rejected a GOP-backed proposal against Obamacare by 52 percent to 48 percent. Many of these voters are seen as symbolic, because health officials in most states—including red states—have been quietly planning to implement the law, according to news reports, particularly after the Supreme Court upheld the law this past June. That is because they see the very sizeable federal subsidies in the program’s start-up years.

7. Undocumented Immigrants

Anti-immigrant sentiments are behind two measures on opposite sides of the country. In Maryland, conservatives backed Question 4, which would repeal 2011 legislation that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities, if they attended high school in Maryland and their parents paid taxes. Maryland voters appear to have rejected that measure with 51.5 percent voting no, with 85 percent of precincts reporting. This is a narrow victory, but victory nonetheless, for immigration rights.

In Montana, voters appear to strongly back LR-121, a legislature-sponsored measure that would deny state services to undocumented immigrants. With one-third of precincts reports, it was backed by 79 percent of voters. That regressive measure requires individuals who apply for state welfare benefits or student loans at state universities to present proof of citizenship.

8. Affirmative Action

Local television stations report that Oklahoma voters have passed State Question 759, put on the ballot by legislators, prohibiting any discrimination or preferable treatment on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity and national origin. It is designed to undermine state affirmative action programs and is part of a trend that can be seen in other South-Central states, such as Texas and Kansas, which have passed tougher voter ID laws in response to growing minority populations. The common thread in all these steps is trying to preserve the white governing class’ power.

9. Criminal Justice

California’s Proposition 34 abolishing capital punishment and commuting death sentences to life without parole was defeated. However, in a major victory for prison reform, more than two-thirds of Californians supported Proposition 36, changing California’s infamous “three strikes” law that imposes a life prison sentence for people convicted of three felonies. It requires the third felony be a serious or violent offense—not a minor drug related crime. It will save millions that can be used for other public programs.   

10. Assisted Suicide

Massachusetts’ voters appear to have narrowly rejected Question 2, an initiative that would allow a terminally ill person to be given a lethal injection. With 86 percent of precincts reporting, 50.6 voted no.

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