California may consistently rate as one of the country's bluest, most progressive, most union-dominated states, but Tuesday's ballot initiative results show the state's voters are much more complex.
Voters appear to be embracing Proposition 22, which will allow ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber and food delivery services like Grubhub to continue to classify drivers as independent workers. With 55 percent of the vote counted, voters are approving Prop. 22 by 57.7 percent.
That's a huge blow to union-driven A.B. 5, a law that attempted to eliminate most freelance and contract work in the state and to force all employers to hire these contractors as workers and pay them benefits. The law has already been gutted with a host of exemptions. A.B. 5 was specifically designed to go after companies like Uber. Prop. 22's passage is a big thumb in the eye to the state's unions (and a boon to the state's many independent workers).
Voters are also rejecting Prop. 16, which would reinstate affirmative action in state government and college admissions. Supporters argued that this change would improve diversity in college admissions, but the data show that, in reality, California colleges have dramatically increased campus diversity without having to resort to affirmative action or quotas. Right now, 54.6 percent of voters are rejecting it.
Another big loser is yet another attempt to expand the use of rent control in the state. It seems like a lot of people in California understand that the problem with high rent in the state is due to a lack of housing supply which is driving costs up. Right now, 58.4 percent are voting no.
Proposition 17, which restores the right of felons to vote when they're released on parole, is also likely getting passed. It's got 60.3 percent approval with voters.
But another criminal justice reform referendum is in trouble. Proposition 25, which would replace cash bail across the state with a risk assessment system, is losing. Right now, with 55 percent of the vote counted, more than 54 percent of voters have said no.
Every incumbent governor—nine of them—who was up for reelection this evening has won. Washington's Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee was quickly declared the winner by the Associated Press as votes were counted. With 58 percent of the vote counted, he's up 59.5 percent over Republican challenger Loren Culp.
Only one state, Montana, may see a change in the political party of its leadership. Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, is out due to term limits. Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney wants to succeed him, but GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte is putting up a tough fight. With 34 percent of the vote counted, Gianforte is ahead of Cooney, 49.2 percent to 47.3 percent. Libertarian Party candidate Lyman Bishop is bringing in 3.5 percent of the vote.
The other big state story tonight is that every single ballot initiative that scales back the drug war appears to have won or is currently solidly ahead. Voters in Arizona, Mississippi, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Montana all appear to be legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use. Oregon and District of Columbia voters are doing the same for psilocybin mushrooms.
Oklahoma voters have rejected a reform measure that would have likely reduced sentence lengths for some people convicted of non-violent felonies.
Oklahoma law allows prosecutors to seek enhanced sentences whenever somebody convicted of a felony had previously been convicted of a felony. State Question 805 would have prohibited these sentencing enhancements for non-violent felonies but would keep them for violent felonies. The distinction didn't appear to matter to Oklahoma voters. With 93 percent of the vote counted, the Associated Press reports voters have rejected the reforms, with 61 percent voting no.
And in Louisiana, voters have passed a state constitutional referendum declaring that "nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion."
Elsewhere, there doesn't appear to be any budging in governors. The Associated Press reports that North Carolina's Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will hold off challengers to keep his seat. In North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum will also keep his seat.
Utah will be changing governors, but not party leadership. Lt. Governor Spencer Cox will succeed Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who decided not to run for reelection. Cox has the support of 62 percent of the voters, with 60 percent of the vote tabulated. The Associated Press has declared him the winner.
Utah isn't the only state that is guaranteed a new governor. In Montana, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock is out due to term limits. Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte faces off against Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney for Bullock's seat. The polls are close, and Libertarian Lyman Bishop is running as an alternative candidate. With 21 percent of the vote counted, Cooney is leading by 56 percent, Gianforte has 40 percent, and Bishop has 3.3 percent.
Here are some more initiatives to keep an eye on as polls close westward:
- Nebraska voters will consider a trio of initiatives to allow gambling at licensed racetracks. With 66 percent of the vote count, all three are currently being approved.
- Oregon voters will consider legalizing psilocybin mushrooms. In a separate initiative, they'll also consider reclassifying possession of other controlled substances like heroin and cocaine as citable offenses rather than misdemeanors. With 70 percent of the vote counted, both are passing.
California, as is typical, has a host of ballot initiatives to watch:
- California voters will be asked if they want to scale back Proposition 13 and allow for increased property taxes on industrial and commercial properties. With 30 percent of the vote counted, it's barely winning with 50.8 percent of the vote.
- California voters will decide whether to reinstate affirmative action policies in state employment and college admission. With 30 percent of the vote counted, voters are rejecting this change, with 53.1 percent voting no.
- California voters will decide whether to restore the voting rights of felons while they're on parole. With 30 percent of the vote counted, voters are agreeing to this by 61.8 percent.
- California voters will decide whether to allow rideshare and delivery drivers to keep working as independent contractors or if they have to be treated as employees. With 30 percent of the vote counted, 56.7 percent of the voters want to let them stay independent.
- California voters will also decide whether to eliminate the use of cash bail in the state. With 30 percent of the vote counted, 53.1 percent are currently rejecting this change.
The Associated Press has called Delaware for incumbent Democratic Gov. John Carney. He leads Republican challenger Julianne Murray 69.5 percent to 28.6 percent
Republican Chris Sununu will maintain his position as New Hampshire's governor. The Associated Press called the race with 5 percent of the vote in.
Here are some important ballot initiatives we're watching in states with polls that are closing at 9 p.m. Eastern:
- In Michigan, voters will consider a constitutional amendment requiring police to get a warrant to access a person's electronic data and communications. With 7 percent of the vote counted, 88.4 percent are demanding to see a warrant.
- In Oklahoma, voters will consider some sentencing reform. Current Oklahoma law allows prosecutors to seek an enhanced sentence for any defendant who has previously been convicted of a felony. Under Question 805, this will only be the case for violent felonies. If passed, a person's non-violent felony convictions cannot be used to enhance sentences for subsequent convictions for non-violent felonies. So far voters are rejecting the change. With 68 percent of the vote counted, 58.8 percent have voted no.
- In Illinois, voters will consider whether they'll change the state's flat income tax to a graduated tax rate that increases for people with higher incomes. With just 8 percent of the vote counted, Illinois voters are resting the change, with 55.4 percent voting no.
- In Colorado, voters will decide whether to allow the expansion of gambling in three cities. With 48 percent of the vote counted, voters are in favor by 69.8 percent.
- Also in Colorado, voters will decide whether to create a plan to reintroduce gray wolves on public lands. Voting is currently split. It's barely winning by 50.6 percent of the vote.
- In addition, Colorado voters will consider whether to reduce the state's income tax, and separately to increase tobacco taxes. Right now, with 48 percent of the vote counted, both proposals are passing.
- Maryland voters will consider whether to allow for sports and events betting and use the revenue raised for education. In early voting (Just 4 percent), voters want to see more betting.
- Arizona voters will consider whether to legalize recreational marijuana. Very early returns (3 percent) has approval ahead by 60 percent.
West Virginia's Republican Gov. Jim Justice and Vermont's Republican Gov. Phil Scott were both declared winners immediately after polls closed in their states, easily holding off challengers, according to Decision Desk HQ.
As more states' polls close at 8 p.m., here are some of the big ballot initiatives and initiatives we're following this evening:
- In New Jersey, voters will be deciding whether the state will legalize recreational use of marijuana. As of 9:50 p.m., it's the first drug-related ballot initiative to pass this evening.
- Massachusetts voters will be deciding whether to transition to a ranked-choice voting system for state and congressional races, meaning that instead of just choosing the winner, they'll be able to rank all the candidates. Read more details on how that works here. Maine is using ranked-choice voting for the first time in a presidential race this evening. More details about this voting system—and why libertarian voters should care—here. Early voting (just 8 percent) right now has voters rejecting a transition to ranked-choice, with 53 percent saying no.
- Washington, D.C., voters will consider whether to decriminalize the use of psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, and similar drugs. With 41 percent of the vote counted, D.C. residents are heavily favoring decriminalization by 76.6 percent.
- Mississippi voters will consider whether to legalize medical marijuana, and whether to allow it for people with certain select illnesses or only for those people with terminal illnesses. Early voting (Just 3 percent) has medical marijuana passing with 76 percent in favor of the broader permission, not just those with terminal illnesses.
- Voters in two counties in Alabama will decide whether the state's "stand your ground" self-defense laws apply to individuals in churches. With less than 20 percent of the vote counted, both are currently passing with more than 70 percent support.
Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb will keep his seat, according to early election returns. The Associated Press has called the race with 14 percent of the vote counted. Holcomb is ahead 63 percent over Democratic challenger Woodrow Myers' 25 percent. Libertarian Party candidate Donald Rainwater is getting 11 percent of the vote.
The incumbent governors in the states having elections this year don't seem to be in much danger, but keep an eye on North Carolina's Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The other two gubernatorial races to pay close attention to are Montana and Utah, where there are no incumbents running.
Eleven states (and two territories) are electing governors this evening, and political control of state legislatures is on the table in Texas, Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Montana, Alaska, North Carolina, and a couple of other places.
There are also 120 ballot initiatives under consideration in 32 states covering such issues as drug policy, criminal justice reform, taxes, redistricting, and election systems.
Throughout the evening look for updated results here about the balance of political power within states and the results of important ballot initiatives.
Polls will start to close in East Coast states at 7 p.m. Here are some relevant ballot initiatives that I'm keeping an eye on in those states:
- In Florida, voters will consider whether to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It needs 60 percent of the vote to pass. With 80 percent of the vote counted, it's up 61.6 percent.
- Also in Florida, voters will consider whether to shift the primary elections away from closed partisan races to a "jungle primary" where all registered voters can vote regardless of party affiliation and all candidates compete in the same pool regardless of party; the top two vote-getters then face off in the general election. This is similar to how state races in California and Washington are held. Like the minimum wage vote, it requires 60 percent to pass. With 81 percent of the vote counted, it's only at 57 percent.
- In Virginia, voters will consider whether to strip the power away from the state legislature to draw congressional and state district boundaries and instead give it to a 16-member commission. With 79 percent of the vote counted, it stands at 66.7 percent approval.
This post will be updated with new information as more polls close and election results arrive.