With each election comes some post election stirring and data. There are polls and speeches and a move towards the next step. Before that begins to truly pick up, it is helpful to look back at some of the accomplishments of November 6 beyond the electoral contests. There were ballot initiatives in the Garden State and around the country. Beyond those, there are some snapshots of what might have led to the results everyone saw.
For starters, in New Jersey, voters were able to decide whether or not to borrow $750 million to fund classroom and lab construction projects at state colleges and universities. With the majority of the vote in fairly early on that Tuesday night; the measure was projected to pass. It was a measure supported by both parties as well as Governor Chris Christie. Anytime you get all three in line, it is good for the state.
However, as would be predicted, conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity are not exactly pleased with what they view as more spending.
This was the first time in 24 years that the state has borrowed to fund higher educational institutions.
That was one small initiative in the grand scheme of things on the day. The big moves came in other states like Maine and Maryland; where voters approved same sex marriage by a popular vote as opposed to a state Supreme Court and state Legislature like previous equal rights victories. While in Washington and Colorado, marijuana was legalized for recreational use. Maryland and Maine’s ballot victories were major in terms of what it means for equal rights as well as the importance of the fact that they broke a 32 state streak dating back 14 years of voters rejecting such initiatives. Now eight states and the District of Columbia will have same sex marriage as a legal institution.
As Chad Griffin from the Human Rights Campaign would voice,
“For the first time, voters in Maine and Maryland voted to allow loving couples to make lifelong commitments through marriage — forever taking away the right-wing talking point that marriage equality couldn’t win on the ballot.”
The Human Rights Campaign is a national gay-rights group.
Shortly after the dust of Tuesday cleared, Washington would add their name as the ninth state. While Minnesota voters rebuffed conservative efforts by rejecting a ban on same sex marriage in the state’s constitution. Maryland and Washington saw their State Legislatures pass same sex marriage legislation, but enough petitions were collected to put the matter to a popular vote.
Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage looked to put his own spin on the results in Maine and Maryland. He would have likely said the same thing even with Washington’s victory for equal rights after his statement. As Brown would utter,
“At the end of the day, we’re still at 32 victories and they’ve got two. Just because two extreme blue states vote for gay marriage doesn’t mean the Supreme Court will create a constitutional right for it out of thin air.”
The U.S. Supreme Court and legalizing same sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution is likely something that will not happen overnight and soon despite progress being made. Brown and those who support his views would be wise to gauge at polls over the last two years and they will see opinions of voters slanting away from their “traditional” mindset.
Across the country, there were 176 measures for voters to consider in 38 states. Another major one in terms of immigration reform came in Maryland with their passage of their own version of the Dream Act. Under the ballot initiative, illegal immigrants would be able to pay in-state college tuition as long as they went to high school in that state for three years and can show they filed state income tax returns during that time. While Oklahoma voters decided to eliminate all affirmative action programs in state government hiring, education, and contracting practices. Further north in Michigan, voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have added collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.
While those were major moves on Election Day, what about what some voters thought about their vote? In particular, what roles Hurricane Sandy and President Obama’s response to it and the impact of that on voters. Roughly 80% of those polled in the Associated Press said President Obama’s response to Sandy played a factor in their vote. Those same respondents also put the economy as their top issue with almost 70% putting that on the top of their list of important issues. Going further, three out of every five respondents said unemployment is the biggest economic issue.
In the ever flowing “blame game” for the economy, President George W. Bush still warrants most of the blame with more than half of respondents blaming him for the current economic state with President Obama getting about 40% of the blame. Giving President Obama more reason to hold his head high is the fact that nearly three in five voters support keeping the Affordable Care Act as is or expand it.
That “Hurricane Sandy bump” is reflective also in the fact that President Obama carried the Garden State by a wider margin than in 2008. He bested Senator John McCain (R-AZ) four years ago by 15% and beat his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney, by close to 17%.
Chiming in on this development was Patrick Murray, Monmouth University pollster and political scientist. For Murray,
“That (the result) was absolutely a Sandy bump. There’s no question about it. It’s a different electorate than we were even expecting before the Hurricane hit. It’s much more Democratic, according to the exit polls. There was a question about the hurricane in New Jersey and nationally. In New Jersey, it was an important issue for people.”
He would add on the voter turnout,
“Considering turnout dropped by approximately 10 million nationwide and maybe only a hundred thousand in New Jersey is a pretty good number there. People who wanted to vote (did), even in the midst of the hurricane.”
Turnout was likely affected by the hurricane’s aftermath and the difficulties of submitting a ballot. The turnout was close to 60% of the electorate; about ten percent their previous low in 2000. Electoral officials in the state were working hard to ensure that voters would be able to cast their votes if so desired. However, with only about a week to try to recover; it was still a tricky task.
Even with the lowest turnout in history for a presidential election in the state, the voters who did come out showed they were engaged and concerned about multiple issues that the country often echoes. The Jersey Strong mantra was certainly seen with how voters did what they could.
Thus, as with any election; there is always something more than just the results of presidential or legislative races.