November 6, 2018 / 11:17 AM / 12 days ago

Factbox: Most closely watched U.S. ballot initiatives

(Reuters) - Voters in several states voted on Tuesday on ballot measures that could change state laws on a range of divisive social issues, including abortion and marijuana.

Supporters participate at a campaign rally on the eve of the U.S. mid-term elections at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria  

ABORTION:

Three states - Alabama, Oregon and West Virginia - have initiatives on the ballot with the potential to restrict access to abortion, which is protected by the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

In Alabama and West Virginia, voters were deciding whether to amend their state constitutions with language that could pave the way for future restrictions on abortion should the Supreme Court revisit or overturn Roe v. Wade under its conservative majority.

In Oregon, a ballot measure would prohibit using public money to fund abortion except in cases of medical necessity or where required by federal law.

MARIJUANA:

In Michigan and North Dakota, voters were deciding whether to legalize recreational marijuana possession and use for anyone over the age of 21.

Michigan’s ballot initiative would permit residents to grow up to 12 plants for personal use and levy a 10 percent sales tax on cannabis sales.

North Dakota’s proposal would legalize pot use and possession but, unlike most other states with such laws, does not establish a framework for regulation or taxes for pot businesses, leaving those decisions to lawmakers.

Utah’s initiative would legalize the use of medical marijuana through privately owned dispensaries but it lost support after state lawmakers said they had agreed on a compromise plan that would instead allow patients to obtain cannabis from county health departments or a handful of state-approved pharmacies.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert has said he would call a special legislative session to take up that proposed law later this month, regardless of whether voters approved the ballot measure.

Missouri voters had three choices for permitting the use of medical marijuana: two that would amend the state constitution and a third that would create a new law.

All three options carry sales taxes, with funds going to veterans programs or in the case of the third choice, a marijuana research center.

VOTING RIGHTS:

In Florida, voters on Tuesday approved a state constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to about 1.5 million Floridians with felony convictions.

The passage of Amendment Four with the support of 64 percent of voters could reverberate beyond Florida into the 2020 presidential election because of the important role the state often plays in deciding close national elections.

MINIMUM WAGE:

An Arkansas ballot initiative would raise the state minimum wage, in increments, to $11 an hour by 2021 from the current $8.50 per hour.

One in Missouri would raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2023 from its current $7.85 an hour.

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

In Massachusetts, voters were asked whether to repeal a bill passed by state lawmakers in 2016 that allows transgender people to use bathrooms, locker rooms and other sex-segregated spaces according to the gender with which they identify.

Supporters of the repeal say that women do not feel safe sharing intimate spaces with people with male bodies even if they identify as women, a position shared by conservative groups as well as some feminists.

Opponents argue that the legislation is critical to protecting transgender people from discrimination.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney

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