The Presidential Election of 2016 was certainly an election of change. Millions of Americans unseen by pollsters and pundits came out in droves to vote for a candidate they perceived as someone who would change the way this country is run. Whether or not you are optimistic or pessimistic about these changes that will come from our new president, we can all agree on one thing: things will change.
Our new President will not be the only driver of change for this country however. While the focus of last Tuesday night was on the presidential election, over 150 state referendums were being decided across the country. From plastic bag bans to the death penalty, these referendums will have immediate and long-lasting change for many of our states, and influence others in future elections.
In total, 154 referendums appeared on ballots on November 8th. Californians struck down a proposition that would requires adult film performers to use condoms when filming. Indiana and Kansas surprised no one and expanded fishing and hunting rights with two referendums. And D.C. once again voted yes on a referendum that stated DC should be admitted into the Union as a state.
In an election with a high level of apathy and dislike for the presidential candidates, these referendums may have actually increased voter turnout in certain states. Florida and Nevada are both evidence of this, two states who saw record high voter turnout and had Marijuana initiatives on the ballot. 2016 saw advocacy groups raise awareness for these referendums through social media platforms at an unprecedented level. Through Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, awareness advocates started pages and got hashtags trending to spread the word about what exactly was going to be on your state ballot. While social media might have unduly influenced the election with false news, it at least got the word out on referendums.
Here’s the complete rundown on the referendum results that you need to know about.
Perhaps the biggest victory of election night was for Mary Jane. While marijuana legalization advocates may have been lamenting Donald Trump’s victory, they could at least take solace in the fact that 8 states passed initiatives expanding the legal use of marijuana. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada all passed referendums approving the recreational use of marijuana (voters in Arizona said no to reefer and voted against the marijuana referendum last week.) The number of U.S. residents living in a state with legal recreational marijuana nearly quadrupled from 17.4 million to 66.2 million. Additionally, 4 other states (Montana, Arkansas, North Dakota and Florida) passed measures allowing doctors prescribe medical marijuana. After last Tuesday night, Marijuana is now legal in some form in more than half the country.
Organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project channeled support through Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness of the 9 marijuana related initiatives. They organized events and directly messages users to promote their cause. In California, #Prop64 was trending on Twitter during the night of the election. While much of the opposition for marijuana legalization come from corporate lobbying, most of the support came from grassroots efforts and social activists. Social media was imperative in this election for legalization referendums to gain support and awareness.
Death and Taxes
Nothing in this election was certain, except for death and taxes (referendums). Nebraska and Oklahoma decided to clear the jails and brought back the death penalty with two referendums that received high support. Voters in California also embraced capital punishment by voting “NO” on a measure that repealed the death penalty. Overall 2016 was a great year for the electric chair industry.
The 2016 election was also a big election for tax referendums. Over 51 million citizens saw measures to increase the tobacco tax on their ballot, yet California was the only state to actually pass the referendum. Georgia finally put two and two together and voted to dedicate tax money from fireworks to trauma care and fire services.
November 8th was a great night for those making minimum wage. 21 million residents live in states that featured measures to raise minimum wages. California, Colorado and Maine raised their minimum wages to $12 an hour while Washington had to one-up everyone and raised their’s to $13.50. All over the internet, an organization called Raise the Minimum Wage reached out to people via Facebook, Twitter and email asking them to come out and vote yes on these referendums.
Tuesday’s referendums on firearm restrictions may have been a bull’s eye for those promoting greater gun control. The approved referendums included a measure by California to prohibit large capacity magazine and require background checks. Nevada instituted a background check requirement as well and Washington passed a proposal to prohibit sales of firearms to the court-ordered mentally ill. Maine was the only state on Tuesday to vote down a measure requiring background checks for the purchase of firearms.
One of the biggest issues on social media this year has centered around gun violence. Mass shootings have justifiably led to an outcry on social media for stricter gun laws. This cumulated on election night when #StopGunViolence and #GunControl were trending in the twittersphere.
Gun rights activists also had their voices heard on social media. While they may have been overshadowed by gun control advocates, they at least had an effect in Maine. “We had a huge social media presence, hundreds of volunteers around the state, and we put up almost 20,000 lawn signs” said David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
If you’re justifiably worried that our new president won’t place the environment as his top concern, it’s at least comforting that know that some states are taking their own innovative. California passed a referendum to ban single-use plastic and paper bags and Massachusetts set higher standards for animal testing. Florida had a misleading referendum on their ballot that could of led to higher taxes on solar panels, but luckily Florida’s citizens did their homework and voted it down. The only unfortunate news for environmentalists was the carbon emission tax that failed to pass in Washington. This could of set a standard for other states to follow. While hashtags about Donald Trump may have overshadowed them, #ClimateChange and #GlobalWarming were two trending hashtags during the election, especially in California and Washington.
~ Sam Kuchma