Results from the US midterm elections are coming in – here are some key takeaways
The US held their midterm elections yesterday, on November 8. Now, results are coming in, and they’re painting a mixed picture of the state of US society right now.
To give you a quick rundown on what the midterm elections actually are: unlike state and local elections that happen every single year, congressional midterm elections only happen halfway through a president’s term (hence ‘midterm’). Although voter turnout for midterms is generally lower than in general elections, they’re still a significant democratic process.
Why? Midterms help determine who holds power in Congress – and, therefore, who is able to block or pass laws. Midterms also give voters the chance to weigh in on ‘ballot measures’ – AKA proposals to change or amend laws. This year, some American voters faced questions about abortion, marijuana, and even slavery.
Here’s some of the good news from the midterm results so far.
SLAVERY HAS BEEN ABOLISHED (???)
Yes, you read that right: slavery has been abolished in Tennessee, Oregon, Vermont, and Alabama.
I mean, great… but hasn’t it been 157 years since the US constitution banned chattel slavery? Technically, yes – but it was actually left in place as an exemption for convicted prisoners. Therefore, throughout most of the US, slavery is actually still legal as a punishment for crime. You might remember that prisoners helped to fight the Californian wildfires in 2019 – they were technically slaves.
We’re not sure if we can count this as good news, per se. Because why has it taken so long for these states to properly outlaw slavery? And why did 20 per cent of voters want to keep slavery legal in Tennessee? Even more disturbingly – voters in Lousiana actually voted to keep slavery. And what about the states where using prisoners for slave labour is still legal and this is going totally unchallenged?
Anyway – good for Tennessee, Oregon, Vermont, and Alabama, I guess?
ABORTION RIGHTS HAVE BEEN STRENGTHENED
This is more uncomplicated good news: abortion rights have been strengthened in four states. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade decision earlier this year, abortion access became a key issue in states across the country.
Abortion rights have now been codified into law in Michigan, Vermont, and California. This means that access to abortion is now a constitutional right in these states, which prevents lawmakers from passing any major abortion restrictions in the future.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, voters rejected a proposal to amend the state's constitution to say that it does not “secure or protect a right” to abortion or the funding of abortion.
Basically, this is a huge win for anyone with a uterus and abortion rights’ campaigners, especially in the wake of the fall of Roe v Wade.
TWO NEW GOVERNORS MADE HISTORY
Two new governors elected made history.
Democrat Maura Healey became the first woman to be elected governor of Massachusetts, and the first openly lesbian governor in US history. “We did it, Massachusetts,” she tweeted after her victory.
Meanwhile, Democrat Maxwell Frost, aged 25, is the US Congress' first representative of Generation Z. As representatives in Congress are mainly baby boomers, this is great news for young people in the US, who will now have Frost as a representative. “History was made tonight. We made history for Floridians, for Gen Z, and for everyone who believes we deserve a better future,” Frost wrote on Twitter after the results came in. “I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to represent my home in the United States Congress.”
WINS FOR DRUG LEGALISATION AND DECRIMINALISATION
Maryland and Missouri voters approved legalising recreational marijuana for people aged 21 and over.
Both states measures will also see changes to criminal law and expunge many past convictions for possession of marijuana. For instance, in Missouri, nonviolent offences will be expunged (unless the person convicted has been charged with either selling to minors or driving under the influence).
Meanwhile, voters in Colorado — the state which pioneered the legalisation of cannabis — have the chance to decriminalise the possession and use of certain psychedelic plants and fungi for people aged 21 and over. The state is also considering creating “healing centres” where the drugs would be administered under supervision. The vote comes after results from a study published earlier this week found that psilocybin, the psychedelic compound found in magic mushrooms, can alleviate symptoms of depression.
At present, though, the results aren’t finalised and it’s too early to say which way Colorado has voted.