Abortion Rights, Gun Control Notch Wins on State Ballots

Voters also legalized recreational cannabis in Missouri and Maryland

Voters voting and registering in a polling station
State Ballots.

Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Abortion rights, gun control, and minimum wage hikes were the clear election winners among state ballot measures approved on Nov. 8.

Voters meanwhile rendered a split verdict on cannabis legalization, and, in four states, repealed constitutional provisions permitting slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishment. In California, they decisively defeated two measures that would have legalized sports betting.

The elections determined the fate of 132 constitutional amendments or legislative proposals in 37 states. Here's a rundown of the key results.

Abortion Rights Affirmed

Voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont approved amendments to state constitutions guaranteeing reproductive rights including the right to an abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling enabling states to outlaw the procedure. The vote was closest in Michigan, where abortion rights proponents prevailed by 56% to 44%. That result invalidated a dormant 1931 law banning abortion in the state and upheld subsequent legislation that legalized it.

Meanwhile, Kentucky voters rejected a constitutional amendment by 53% to 47% specifying that the state constitution does not provide a right to an abortion or to public funding for abortions. Three months ago, Kansas defeated a similar measure. Abortion is banned in Kentucky unless a pregnant woman's life is at risk under a 2019 law that came into force following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The Nov. 8 vote preserved a legal challenge to that law, and Kentucky voters defeated a bid by one of the law's authors for the state Supreme Court for good measure. In Montana, where abortion is protected by the state constitution, voters rejected a measure requiring medical care to preserve the life of infants born after attempted abortions by 53% to 47%.

Gun Control in Oregon

Oregon voters enacted tough gun control legislation by a razor-thin margin, with 50.7% backing a law that will require firearm buyers to obtain permits from local law enforcement after undergoing safety training and a criminal background check. The measure also bans ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.

“We know that throughout U.S. history change rarely comes from the federal government. Most often it comes from states and local governments, and this is an example of everyday people using their state government and working together to create a safer community to stop this violence before it touches them, too,” said David Hogg, a gun control activist and survivor of a 2018 mass shooting at a Florida high school, during the campaign.

Oregon joins 14 other states and the District of Columbia in requiring permits or safety training to buy or own at least some class of firearms.

Weed in Missouri, Maryland; Shrooms for Colorado

Missouri and Maryland legalized cannabis for recreational use on Nov. 8, joining 19 other U.S. states and the District of Columbia, even as voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota rejected similar measures. Retail sales in Missouri could start as early as February after voters amended the state constitution, legalizing cannabis by 53% to 47%, with heavy support in St. Louis and the surrounding area.

Among the three states to reject weed for adults, South Dakota came closest to approval with 47% in favor, followed by North Dakota with 45% and Arkansas with 44%. While those votes slowed the rapid spread of legal cannabis from the coasts to the heartland, legalization in Missouri is an important milestone given the state's Republican leanings. It gives seven neighboring states that continue to ban adult-use cannabis the choice of following suit or losing tax revenue as residents shop across the border. Missouri and Maryland each have a population of about 6.2 million, more than Arkansas and both Dakotas put together.

In Colorado, among the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis a decade ago, voters approved a measure decriminalizing the possession of psychedelic plants and mushrooms as "natural medicine" and allowing licensed "healing centers" to administer them by 51% to 49%. The new law covers dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, some types of mescaline, psilocybin, and psilocin.

Taxes, Wages, and Unions

Colorado overwhelmingly approved a cut in the state's income tax rate to 4.4% from 4.55% after cutting it from 4.63% in 2020. In Massachusetts, voters enacted a 4% surcharge on annual income above $1 million on top of the state's 5% state income tax rate, by 52% to 48%.

In contrast, California voters rejected an initiative that would have imposed a 1.75% surcharge on annual income above $2 million to fund electric vehicle subsidies and infrastructure, as well as wildfire prevention, with 57% opposed.

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom broke with the state's Democratic Party in opposing the measure, calling it "a cynical scheme devised by a single corporation to funnel state income tax revenue to their company." Rides provider Lyft (LYFT) spent $45.1 million in support of the tax increase. By 2030, electric vehicles must account for 90% of the miles driven by Lyft and Uber (UBER) drivers in California under a mandate approved in 2021 by the California Air Resources Board.

Nebraska and Nevada approved minimum wage hikes. Nebraska's hourly minimum will rise in increments to $15 from the current $9 by the start of 2026, and will be indexed for regional inflation thereafter. Nevada's minimum hourly wage will rise to $12 from $10.50 (or $9.50 for workers with health benefits) by mid-2024, and will also be indexed for inflation. District of Columbia voters approved an initiative gradually raising the $5.35 hourly minimum wage for tipped workers until it matches that of workers who don't get tips in 2027. The current minimum hourly wage for workers who don't get tips is $16.10 in the nation's capital.

Illinois and Tennessee split over right-to-work laws, which allow workers to share the benefits of collective bargaining without joining a union or paying union dues. Illinois voters, by 59% to 41%, approved a constitutional amendment providing collective bargaining rights and prohibiting right-to-work laws. Tennessee voters gave right-work laws constitutional protection by 70% to 30%.

Slavery Ending

One hundred fifty-seven years after the Civil War, voters in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont removed language allowing slavery or involuntary servitude as criminal punishment that echoed the exception in the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution..

That's not expected to have an immediate effect on some 800,000 state and federal prisoners performing minimally compensated work, often involuntarily. But the changes, backed by prisoner rights activists, lay the groundwork for legal challenges of the current system and practices.

Louisiana voters rejected an amendment that replaced the slavery and servitude exceptions with language permitting forced labor for some prison sentences. The amendment had been disavowed as flawed by the lawmaker who wrote it.

Medicaid Expansion and Right to Health Care

South Dakota voters approved a Medicaid expansion under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), long blocked by the state's Republican lawmakers, by 56% to 44%.

In Oregon, a constitutional amendment that would guarantee affordable health care remained too close to call with 49.9% support, trailing by 2,574 votes with 1.4 million counted as of the afternoon of Nov. 9. The ballot initiative sponsored by Democratic lawmakers did not specify how the state would meet that obligation.

Voting Rights

Michigan and Connecticut voters made it easier to vote, with Connecticut authorizing the Legislature to allow early voting for the first time, while Michigan created a nine-day early voting period and required the state to set up absentee drop boxes and a system for tracking the absentee ballots.

Nebraska voted to require voters to provide photo identification, while Arizona rejected a proposal to require voter identification number and date of birth on mail-in ballots and to eliminate a two-document alternative to a photo ID at the polls.

Arkansas voters rejected a proposal to require a supermajority of 60% for ballot initiatives, while Arizona enacted the 60% approval threshold for ballot initiatives imposing taxes.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. KCRA3. "Prop. 26 & 27: Big Bet a Bust in Bid to Allow Sports Gambling in California."

  2. Ballotpedia. "2022 Ballot Measure Election Results."

  3. Ballotpedia. "Michigan Proposal 3, Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative (2022)."

  4. Ballotpedia. "Kentucky Constitutional Amendment 2, No Right to Abortion in Constitution Amendment (2022)."

  5. Associated Press. "Keller Reelected to Kentucky Supreme Court, Beating Fischer."

  6. Ballotpedia. "Montana LR-131, Medical Care Requirements for Born-Alive Infants Measure (2022)."

  7. "Ballotpedia. "Oregon Measure 114, Changes to Firearm Ownership and Purchase Requirements Initiative (2022)."

  8. OregonLive. "Oregon Passes Measure 114, One of Strictest Gun Control Measures in U.S."

  9. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "Licensing."

  10. USA Today. "Recreational Weed Now Legal in 21 states: Here's Where It Passed, Where It Was Rejected This Week."

  11. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Missouri Voters Approve Legalizing Recreational Marijuana."

  12. Ballotpedia. "South Dakota Initiated Measure 27, Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2022)."

  13. Ballotpedia. "North Dakota Statutory Measure 2, Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2022)."

  14. Ballotpedia. "Arkansas Issue 4, Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2022)."

  15. U.S. Census Bureau. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico."

  16. Ballotpedia. "Colorado Proposition 122, Decriminalization and Regulated Access Program for Certain Psychedelic Plants and Fungi Initiative (2022)."

  17. Ballotpedia. "Colorado Proposition 121, State Income Tax Rate Reduction Initiative (2022)."

  18. Ballotpedia. "Massachusetts Question 1, Tax on Income Above $1 Million for Education and Transportation Amendment (2022)."

  19. Ballotpedia. "California Proposition 30, Tax on Income Above $2 Million for Zero-Emissions Vehicles and Wildfire Prevention Initiative (2022)."

  20. CalMatters. "California Approves Electric Car Mandate for Uber and Lyft."

  21. Ballotpedia. "Nebraska Initiative 433, Minimum Wage Increase Initiative (2022)."

  22. Ballotpedia. "Nevada Question 2, Minimum Wage Amendment (2022)."

  23. Ballotpedia. "Washington, D.C., Initiative 82, Increase Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees Measure (2022)."

  24. Government of the District of Columbia, Executive Office of the Mayor. "Mayor Bowser Announces Minimum Wage Increase Effective July 1, 2022."

  25. Ballotpedia. "Illinois Amendment 1, Right to Collective Bargaining Measure (2022)."

  26. Ballotpedia. "Tennessee Constitutional Amendment 1, Right-to-Work Amendment (2022)."

  27. Associated Press. "Slavery Rejected in Some, Not All, States Where on Ballot."

  28. Reason. "Prison Slavery Up for a Vote in 5 States."

  29. University of Chicago. "U.S. Prison Labor Programs Violate Fundamental Human Rights, New Report Finds."

  30. Innocence Project. "How the 13th Amendment Kept Slavery Alive: Perspectives From the Prison Where Slavery Never Ended."

  31. NOLA.com. "Muddled Amendment to Clarify Slavery Ban in Louisiana Rejected by Voters."

  32. Politico. "South Dakota Votes to Expand Medicaid."

  33. KLCC. "Too Close to Call: Measure 111, Which Would Create a Constitutional Right to Health Care for Oregonians."

  34. Oregon Secretary of State. "Unofficial Election Results, General Election, Nov. 8, 2022."

  35. Ballotpedia. "Oregon Measure 111, Right to Healthcare Amendment (2022)."

  36. Ballotpedia. "Connecticut Question 1, Allow for Early Voting Amendment (2022)."

  37. Ballotpedia. "Michigan Proposal 2, Voting Policies in Constitution Amendment (2022)."

  38. Ballotpedia. "Nebraska Initiative 432, Photo Voter Identification Initiative (2022)."

  39. Ballotpedia. "Arizona Proposition 309, Voter Identification Requirements for Mail-In Ballots and In-Person Voting Measure (2022)."

  40. Ballotpedia. "Arkansas Issue 2, 60% Supermajority Vote Requirement for Constitutional Amendments and Ballot Initiatives Measure (2022)."

  41. Ballotpedia. "Arizona Proposition 132, 60% Vote Requirement for Ballot Measures to Approve Taxes Amendment (2022)."

Open a New Bank Account
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.