Seven states held off-year general elections on Tuesday, and four of these—Mississippi, Maine, Ohio, and Washington—featured initiatives on their ballots. Initiatives are distinct from referendums in that they are put on the ballot directly by the people, whereas referendums are placed on the ballot by legislatures. Of the nine initiatives featured in Tuesday’s elections, voters adopted five.
The citizens of Mississippi passed two initiatives, I-27 (on voter identification) and I-31 (on eminent domain), with 62% and 73% respectively.
Initiative 27, which is aimed at preventing election fraud, amends the Mississippi Constitution to require all voters to submit government issued photo identification before being allowed to vote. Initiative 31, also a constitutional amendment, prohibits state and local government from taking private property via eminent domain and then selling or giving it to private persons or businesses within 10 years.
Mississippi’s most controversial initiative—the Personhood Amendment—did not pass. Initiative 26 would have defined the term “person” as including every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent. Mississippi voters turned it down 58%-42%.
There were two initiatives on the Maine ballot. Both concerned gaming and both failed to pass. Question 2, which failed 55%-45%, would have amended state laws governing the deadline and conditions of approval for one “racino” (a combined race track and casino) and allowed for an additional tribal racino. Question 3, which 63% of voters opposed, would have authorized the establishment of a slot machine facility in cities with at least 30,000 inhabitants. Forty percent of the net income from these slot machines would have been distributed to various state and local government entities.
In Ohio, voters approved the only initiative on the ballot with 66%. A direct response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”), Issue 3 amends the state Constitution to forbid expressly any law that forces participation in a healthcare system, prohibits the purchase or sale of healthcare or health insurance, or creates a fine or penalty for the purchase or sale of healthcare or healthcare insurance. High-profile legal challenges are nearly certain to follow in the coming months and years, especially after the provision of PPACA that imposes fines on individuals who do not purchase health insurance goes into effect in 2014.
Washington voters considered three initiatives, adopting two of them. Initiative 1183 mandates that the state liquidate its liquor distribution centers and retail stores and authorizes the licensing of private liquor distributors and retailers, subject to certain requirements and revenue-based fees. It also removes some restrictions on the distribution of wine. I-1183 passed with 60%.
Initiative 1163, which 67% of voters approved, reiterates the requirements for long-term care workers laid out in I-1029, which passed in 2008. The new initiative requires federal criminal background checks and 75 hours of paid training for long-term care workers beginning in 2012. Additionally, I-1163 increases fraud prevention measures and caps caregiver programs’ administrative expenses.
Initiative 1125 would have prohibited the state from using gas tax or toll road revenues for non-transportation purposes, required the state legislature to set toll rates, and limited the use of toll revenues to the specific project for which the toll was imposed. Voters were nearly evenly divided on the issue, the final vote being 51%-49% against the initiative.
From the standpoint of the development of the initiative process, Mississippi’s results are of greatest importance. Only four southern states—Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi—allow citizens to enact laws through the initiative process. Mississippi reintroduced the initiative process in 1992, but the process was dormant as voters failed to approve any measures. Mississippi voters’ enthusiastic support for two citizen-initiated measures this year indicates that the initiative process may become a more central part of the political culture of the Magnolia State.
For more information on state initiatives and the initiative process, please visit the Miller-Rose Institute Initiative Database