This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: 2018 Midterm Election Results
Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
In this special Midterm Elections edition, states across the nation passed crucial voting reforms, slavery was truly abolished in Colorado, and states contemplated higher wages and legalized marijuana.
Florida Restores Voting Rights to 1.5 Million Former Felons. Florida voters passed Amendment 4, which returns voting rights to former felons who had previously been permanently disenfranchised. The amendment passed after capturing over 60% of the vote. (CNN)
Redistricting Initiatives Sweep the Nation. Voters in Michigan, Colorado, Utah, and Missouri passed initiatives to delegate their states’ redistricting process to independent commissions, potentially signaling an end to gerrymandering in these states. (Pacific Standard)
Massachusetts Supports a Campaign Finance Amendment. Massachusetts voters passed Question 2, which creates a commission of Massachusetts residents formed for the purpose of exploring a potential constitutional amendment to nullify Citizens United. The initiative is largely seen as a symbolic protest. (WBUR)
Diverging Views on Voting Rights. Red and blue states approved opposite measures involving the right to vote. Voters in North Carolina and Arkansas voted to require a photo ID when voting in person. On the other side, Nevada joined 13 states that have automatic voter registration, Michigan added eight provisions to the state constitution to make voting easier, and Maryland voters approved of same-day voter registration. (Time)
“No More Jim Crow in Louisiana!” Louisiana voters approved a state constitutional amendment requiring a unanimous jury for all felony convictions. This rids Louisiana of a law dating back to the Jim Crow era which allowed a jury verdict of 11-1 or 10-2 to result in a life sentence. (Nola.com)
Washington Makes it Easier to Hold Police Accountable. Washington voters passed Initiative 940, which removes a state law barrier that has made it impossible to bring criminal charges against police officers believed to have used deadly force. (The Seattle Times)
A Potential Blow to Due Process. Six states passed Marcy’s Law, which gives crime victims certain rights in the criminal process. The law was passed in large part due to financial backing from billionaire Henry Nicholas and has been criticized by the ACLU as undermining due process. (Forbes)
Slavery Truly Abolished in Colorado. Colorado voters approved changes to their state’s constitution that abolished the use of slavery as a form of punishment. The amendment strives to close the loophole in the 13th Amendment, which has led to high levels of prison labor in the US. (CBS Denver)
Gender and Reproductive Rights
Massachusetts Reaffirms Transgender Rights. Massachusetts voters upheld a state law barring discrimination against transgender people in public places. The initiative was passed by a 2-1 ratio in favor of affirming the anti-discrimination law. (The Boston Globe)
Amending a Woman’s Right to Choose. Voters in Alabama and West Virginia approved broad amendments to their states’ constitutions that could severely limit abortion access if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Advocates of the amendments describe them as largely symbolic, though they could lay the groundwork for outlawing abortion if that decision becomes one for states to make. (The Hill).
Nevada Eliminates the “Tampon Tax.” Nevada made menstrual products exempt from state sales taxes, becoming the tenth state to do so. (Vox)
Expanding Medicaid in Red States. Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska voters passed measures to broaden Medicaid coverage, ensuring that more of those in poverty can get the healthcare they need. (CNBC)
Red States Also Pass a Higher Minimum Wage. Arkansas and Missouri voters approved increases in their state minimum wages in a move endorsed by people across the political spectrum. In Arkansas, the wage will increase from $8.50 per hour today to $11 per hour by 2021. (Washington Post)
Legalizing Marijuana. Michigan’s voters made Michigan the first Midwestern state to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana use. Missouri and Utah voters also endorsed medical marijuana provisions. North Dakota voters, on the other hand, rejected a measure to legalize recreational pot. (NPR)
Diversity on the Ballot
Colorado Elects America’s First Openly Gay Male Governor. Jared Polis joins Oregon Governor Kate Brown as the second LGBTQ person to be elected state governor. (Time)
Native American Women Head to Congress for the First Time. Democrats Sharice Davids (a Kansas attorney and former Obama White House fellow) and Deb Haaland (former chair of the New Mexico state Democratic party) became the first Native American women elected to Congress. (Newsweek)
Muslim Women Head to Congress for the First Time. Democrats Rashida Tlaib (from Michigan) and Ilhan Omar (from Minnesota) became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. (CNN)
Who Run the World? Girls! Yesterday’s election broke a record for most women ever elected to the House of Representatives in an American election. Abby Finkenauer became Iowa’s first congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’s first black member of Congress, and Janet Mills became Maine’s first female governor. (CBS News)