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Midterms Reveal Support for Abortion Rights, Mixed Views on Cannabis

Political divisions in America were on full display on Tuesday night. Early returns show strong support for reproductive choice, but mixed enthusiasm for legalizing recreational cannabis.

People waiting in line in a voting center.
New Yorkers wait in line for their ballot papers at a polling center on, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in the Brooklyn borough.
(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
More than any other issue, abortion has been a lightning rod over much of the past year. Pew research found that 6 in 10 Americans believe abortion should be legal and the same number objected to the Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade. This was expected to give Democrats a midterm advantage until inflation reached historic levels and cast a shadow over their hopes.

The issue was still in the foreground on Tuesday, however. Five states had abortion referendums on their ballots, the most ever in a single year. In an upset, pro-choice voters in Kentucky seem to have narrowly defeated constitutional Amendment 2, which would have established that there is no right to abortion in the state.

Michigan voters are on track to approve Proposal 3, a constitutional amendment in the opposite direction. It will enshrine the right to abortion and other reproductive health services and would prevent a 1931 ban currently before the courts from being reinstated. Vermonters have overwhelmingly supported Proposal 5, another constitutional amendment. It will establish reproductive autonomy as “central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course.”

Similarly, California Proposition 1, on track to pass by a significant margin, will provide constitutional protections for reproductive freedom, including contraception as well as the right to abortion. Montanans appear to be rejecting Legislative Referendum 131, which would require medical care to any infant born alive, including those born during an attempted abortion. (This is already required under a 2002 U.S. House resolution known as the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.”)
A woman wearing a shirt that reads “Reproductive Freedom for All" on the back.
A woman wears a Reproductive Freedom for All shirt at a Michigan Board of State Canvassers meeting in Lansing, Mich.
(Ben Orner/TNS)

Drug Use

In five states, referendums proposed statewide legalization of possession and use of marijuana by persons over 21. It appears likely that measures in Arkansas (Issue 4), South Dakota (Measure 27) and North Dakota (Measure 2) failed to win support. Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe had pressed for votes against legalization in his state before the election, saying, “I think it’s bad for children, bad for students, bad for teachers and educational communities, bad for law enforcement and bad for business.”

Some legalization efforts did succeed. Maryland’s Question 4 and Missouri constitutional Amendment 3 will open the door to recreational use, though the Missouri contest is quite close at this writing. Colorado voters look to be on track to approve a proposal to create a framework for state-regulated providers to provide psylocibin and other hallucinogenic plants and funghi to treat mental health problems, though by a small margin. It will also decriminalize personal use, storage and growing of these substances by people over 21.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas gesturing with both hands while speaking.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas week endorsed a Missouri ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. As of midnight EST on Nov. 8, it was on track to succeed.
(Emily Curiel/TNS)
Note: This account is based on results as of midnight EST on election day, Nov. 8. Governing’s election coverage will continue this week as remaining races are called. For more analysis, subscribe to our politics newsletter, Inside Politics: State & Local with Alan Greenblatt.
Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @governingwriter.
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