Voters send conservative message on ballot initiatives for taxes, citizen-only voting

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Voters in Colorado, Alabama and Florida decided this week that only U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in elections.

Illinois voters rejected an attempt to raise taxes on wealthier residents, while Colorado voters approved a slight cut in the state’s individual income tax rate. Washington state residents, in a nonbinding vote, urged their legislature to repeal a grocery bag tax.

In California, voters rejected an attempt to restore affirmative action policies, and voted to overturn the legislature’s new law to replace cash bail in the criminal justice system. Both had been longtime goals of progressive activists, and the defeats were a stinging reminder that even deep-blue California has limits to its progressive experiments.

Peer beneath the presidential and congressional elections, to the ballot initiatives where voters have a direct say on policies, and the country seemed to be sending a conservative message Tuesday.

One exception was on drugs.

Marijuana legalization measures swept the board, while voters in the District of Columbia voted to decriminalize use of “edibles” such as psychoactive mushrooms. Oregon charted new territory beyond that, voting to decriminalize small amounts of hard drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

“Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date,” Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “It shifts the focus where it belongs — on people and public health — and removes one of the most common justifications for law enforcement to harass, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and deport people.”

On abortion, there was a predictable split. Louisiana voters approved a referendum making clear there is no right to abortion in the state Constitution. But Colorado voters rejected an attempt to restrict late-term procedures in that state.

Florida was also asking voters whether to adopt a $15 minimum wage. That measure was leading, though the tally was too close for a final call Wednesday.

California’s results were particularly striking.

Even as the state was voting overwhelmingly blue in head-to-head elections, voters maintained a 1996 ban on using race or gender as a factor in admissions at public colleges, or in hiring or contracting for government jobs and services.

With more than 80% of the vote in, support for the 1996 ban — and opposition to repealing it — topped 56%.

Those who tried to end the ban insisted they didn’t lose on the substance.

“I think voter confusion was our biggest uphill battle,” Michele Siqueiros told LAist.com. “We know that when folks read the ballot description that they were simply confused by it.”

On the cash-bail issue, the legislature had passed a new system in 2018 to eliminate bail and base whether to free people facing criminal charges based on risk assessments. Opponents got enough signatures to put the matter directly to voters.

With more than 80% of votes counted, the repealers were winning with 55% of the tally.

Voters in Alaska and Massachusetts rejected ranked-choice voting plans, dealing a blow to groups who’ve suggested that system could give voters more options when they cast ballots.

Under ranked-choice, voters are asked to rank their preferences. In a race with more than two candidates, if nobody tops 50% the worst-performing candidate is eliminated. Election officials would then count the second choice of anyone who backed the eliminated candidate.

The process repeats until there’s a winner.

Maine uses ranked choice, but no other state has adopted it.

Perhaps the most unusual questions Tuesday were the three citizen-only voting initiatives.

No state allows noncitizen voting on a statewide basis, but some localities, such as San Francisco in California and Takoma Park in Maryland do let noncitizens vote in some local elections.

Backers of the new bans said they wanted to lock out noncitizen voting just to be sure.

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