Current Issues Blog

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Making Sense of Election Results, Part 2

November 12, 2018

In this post, we will take a look at some important issues that voters weighed in on in last week’s election. Our previous post examined the shift in the national political landscape, especially the change of power in the House of Representatives. This post will take a look at ballot initiatives across the country.

For a full list of ballot measures in your state, check out this list from the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Three states considered ballot initiatives to restrict access to abortion. Voters in Oregon voted against an initiative that would have banned the use of public funding for abortion. Alabama and West Virginia both passed “sweeping anti-abortion language to the states’ constitution, proclaiming that women have no right to perform the procedure,” according to Axios.

Animal Rights

California passed Proposition 12, which requires that all eggs sold in the state come from cage-free hens by 2022. The proposition also calls for larger pens for breeding pigs and for calves raised for veal. This is a good article for teachers looking to help their students discuss the pros and cons of the proposition and its likely impact on issues related to animal cruelty and ethical farming.

Florida also passed bans on dog racing and betting on dog racing.

Criminal Justice, Civil Rights, and Constitutional Law

Alabama voters approved a constitutional amendment that allows for the display of the Ten Commandments in public spaces.

Colorado’s Amendment A put an end to forced, unpaid labor for criminals.

Most prominently, Florida voters passed Amendment 4 to restore voting rights to over one million felons.

One of the more controversial proposals to be adopted through ballot measure in this election was Marsy’s Law, a measure designed to empower victims in the criminal prosecution process. From Vox: “During Tuesday’s midterm elections, voters in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, and Oklahoma approved a controversial ballot measure known as Marsy’s Law—writing what’s effectively a crime victim bill of rights into their state laws.”

The Vox article above provides valuable background on Marsy’s Law. For a strong statement against the proposal, here is the ACLU’s take on the issue; for a statement from the lead organization supporting the proposal, visit the website of Marsy’s Law for All.

Elections and Voting

Several states made major changes to voting and elections laws, including laws and processes related to redistricting and voter registration. This NPR article gives a good rundown of the outcomes.

Energy and the Environment

States considered an array of proposals regarding energy and environmental policy, including initiatives that dealt with renewable energy, clean air and water regulations, and fracking. Environmental protections did not get much public support. Two articles, one from the Washington Post and one from Vox, detail the policy proposals and the outcomes in each case.

Discussion Questions

  1. Were there any significant ballot measures in your state? Do you remember seeing any campaign ads about them?
  2. How would you have voted on some of the ballot measures described above?
  3. Are there any that you would like to see adopted in your state? Why?
  4. Which of these ballot measures do you think is most important? Why?

Optional Extension

Have students use NCSL’s Statewide Ballot Measures Database to investigate ballot measures that were either considered in your state or have to do with issues that your students care about. Have them investigate who supported the measures, who opposed the measures, and how much money was spent on advertising and campaigning.


Image credit: NPR Illinois


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