Election Results: California Bans Gay Marriage, Michigan Approves Medical Marijuana, Al Franken Demands Recount

Democrats gain five Senate seats, two anti-abortion measures defeated.

The 2008 election is over, and while much of the nation has been focused on Senator Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first African-American president , several states hosted crucial local races that could end up shaping the course of American politics for years to come. Voters also weighed in on several important state ballot measures, including California’s Proposition 8, which sought to amend the state’s constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Similar legislation was proposed in Florida and Arizona, and all were approved. With 95 percent of the state’s votes tallied, California’s Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the votes (close to 5.2 million); 48 percent of voters rejected the measure. At press time, groups opposing the measure said that with absentee and provisional ballots yet to be counted, the result was still too close to call. In Florida, Proposition 2, known as the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, passed with 62 percent approval and only 38 percent voting against it. This amendment to the state’s constitution will “protect marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife,” while providing that “no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Arizona’s Proposition 102, which will amend that state’s constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, was also approved by 56 percent of voters. And in Arkansas, gays and lesbians suffered another defeat, as a proposed ban on unmarried couples adopting or providing foster care for children passed with 57 percent voter approval.

Democrats solidified their control of the Senate after Tuesday’s election. They are set to occupy 56 of the 100 Senate seats, having wrested five from the Republicans. Perhaps the biggest Senate loss for the Republicans came in North Carolina, where Democrat Kay Hagan defeated incumbent Elizabeth Dole, the wife of former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole. Hagan secured 53 percent of the vote, with Dole netting 44 percent. In Virginia, Democrat Mark Warner won retiring Republican John Warner’s seat. The GOP also lost a seat in New Hampshire, where Democrat Jeanne Shaheen unseated incumbent John Sununu.

With all of the precincts reporting in Minnesota, it appears that Republican incumbent Senator Norm Coleman defeated his opponent, former “Saturday Night Live” writer, comedian and radio host Al Franken, by about 700 votes (out of 2.4 million cast). Franken has challenged the results and, according to CNN, the Minnesota secretary of state has said that the state will likely hold its first recount in more than 40 years.

New Yorkers approved a ballot measure to amend the state constitution so that any veteran disabled in wartime will get additional points on civil-service tests when applying for state or local government jobs. Close to 77 percent of voters approved the measure.

In Colorado and South Dakota, voters rejected ballot measures that would have led to new abortion bans. The Colorado amendment sought to update the state’s definition of “person” to include fertilized eggs, even before they are implanted in the uterus. That measure was defeated by 73 percent of voters. South Dakota voters denied an initiative that would have restricted all abortions statewide, except for those performed in cases of rape or incest or to protect the woman’s health. The measure also would have penalized doctors who performed abortions with jail time and fines.

The Colorado Civil Rights Initiative, which would have prohibited discrimination or preferential treatment by the state in public employment, public education and public contracting, effectively ending affirmative action there, was narrowly rejected.

Washington voters approved an initiative modeled after Oregon’s “Death With Dignity” law, allowing the terminally ill to be prescribed lethal medication they could self-administer. Meanwhile, Massachusetts approved a marijuana reform measure, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug, and Michigan voters approved a ballot measure to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, joining 12 other states with similar laws on the books.

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