Here Are Some Good Things That Happened on Election Day

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Sure, technically we always knew that the presidential election results would take a while to trickle in, but that didn’t stop us from hoping that just maybe we’d find out who won on election night. But as a surprise to no one but our delusional selves, we didn’t, and now we’re still waiting to hear results from key battleground states.

In the meantime, there is some good news to focus on: Women made history both at the state and federal level, and we’re expected to see a record-high voter turnout across the country. In New York, the progressive Working Families Party was able to retain its ballot line, and in a number of states, voters passed important ballot measures. Below, a look into just some of what went down on Tuesday:

Oregon became the first state to decriminalize drug possession.

Voters in Oregon have made the state the first to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. According to the Washington Post, Oregon residents will no longer face arrests or prison sentences for carrying small amounts and the measure will lay the groundwork for people with substance abuse disorders to receive treatment instead of jail time. Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of Drug Policy Alliance and a supporter of the measure, said, “This is the most significant reform in our nation’s failed drug policies in a generation,” noting that drug charges disproportionately target people of color. The state is also now the first to legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms, per CBS News.

Colorado voters rejected a 22-week abortion ban.

Voters in the state have rejected a measure that would have prohibited most abortions after 22 weeks. According to The Denver Post, if the ballot measure passed, doctors attempting to perform later-term abortions, except when immediately required to save a person’s life, would have been subjected to misdemeanor charges and a temporary license suspension.

Colorado voters approved a paid family leave program.

The creation of a statewide paid family and medical leave program was passed in Colorado. This provides 12 to 16 weeks of paid leave for new parents, those dealing with a serious illness, or those caring for someone with a medical condition. Colorado is the first state to have voters pass a paid leave program, as opposed to the legislature, according to The Colorado Sun. Those who wish to be eligible for the benefits (up to $1,100 per week) will pay into an insurance pool and receive funds beginning in 2024. This is a major development for Colorado residents, as one in four women go to back to work within two weeks of giving birth and 80 percent of the state’s workers don’t receive paid leave, according to 9to5 Colorado and the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

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Florida voters approved a new $15 minimum wage.

Florida became the eighth state in the country to approve a $15-an-hour minimum wage, according to NBC News. The ballot measure, which narrowly passed the 60 percent threshold required, will gradually raise the state’s current $8.56 wage to $10-an-hour next September. That total will be raised an additional $1 each year after, hitting the $15 mark in 2026.

California approved a ballot measure that will allow formerly incarcerated people on parole to vote.

Californians approved Proposition 17 on Tuesday, a ballot measure that will restore voting rights to about 50,000 parolees, according to the Los Angeles Times. The measure changed the state’s Constitution, “which disqualifies people with felony convictions from voting until their incarceration and parole are completed,” per the outlet. As of this morning, the unofficial tally showed it was supported by 59 percent of voters.

Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Montana all voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Ballot initiatives to legalize recreational use of marijuana were passed in all four states last night, while other areas decriminalized aspects of their drug policies, including Mississippi, which legalized medical marijuana for those “with debilitating medical conditions,” per the New York Times. (Mississippi also opted to replace a state flag that incorporates a Confederate battle design.) In D.C., a ballot measure decriminalizing the use of mushrooms and psychedelics was also approved.

One argument for marijuana legalization lies in the significant racial bias in marijuana arrests. In a recent report, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote, “Black people are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those that have legalized marijuana.”

A number of transgender candidates were elected across the U.S.

Sarah McBride made headlines when she became the first openly transgender state senator and highest-ranking transgender official in the country. But she’s only one of several transgender candidates elected or re-elected last night, as reported by Harper’s BAZAAR. Stephanie Byers will become Kansas’s first-ever openly transgender elected official, and Vermont elected its first openly transgender candidate, Taylor Smalls, to the state legislature. Brianna Titone, Colorado’s first openly transgender legislator, was also re-elected, and Lisa Bunker was re-elected in her post as representative for New Hampshire.

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And several other LGBTQ+ candidates won historic races.

The Advocate reported “a new rainbow wave of LGBTQ+ victories” in the 2020 election, citing dozens of wins for openly gay, queer, and transgender candidates across the nation. There were also a sizable number of queer people of color to emerge victorious in their races last night. Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres were the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress in New York. Michele Rayner-Goolsby became the first openly queer Black woman elected to Florida’s House of Representatives. Kim Jackson was elected as state senator in Georgia, the first openly queer candidate to do so, and Torrey Harris became the first LGBTQ+ member of Tennessee’s state legislature.

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