The election may be over, but politics never end. This is especially true at the state level, where the bizarre continues to war with the business of the day, even as elected officials are trying to figure out what will happen now that the federal government is undergoing a massive makeover. But, as everyone tries to predict 2017, it seems clear from the stories below that states have found plenty of ways to keep themselves amused in the meantime.
Kentucky: A license plate killed
An atheist sued Kentucky's transportation secretary after the state decided not to issue him an “IM GOD” license plate. The 77-year-old says he had the same plate in Ohio, and that his First Amendment rights are being denied. As for the plate itself, the man told the Courier-Journal, “Nobody’s been able to prove I’m not [God] and I can't prove I am.”
Fights over license plates happen more than you'd think. States have skirmished with residents over whether they should be able to put confederate flags or “Choose Life” on vanity plates. New York automatically denies requests asking for “DMV,” “MERDE,” “JAYLENO,” “REDRUM,” “FARTMAN,” and “GOD.” A man in New Hampshire who legally changed his name to “human” went to court to try and get a “COPSLIE” license plate, while the Indiana Supreme Court had to decide whether it is constitutional to approve a license plate that says “HATERS” but not one that says “HATER.”
When the United States is rubble and the Sun is ready to obliterate Earth, we will probably still be arguing about whether it is OK to have license plates that say “BUTTS” on them.
New Hampshire: Speaking of licenses
Dick Marple was reelected to the New Hampshire state legislature on November 8. That same day, he was arrested. Marple had missed a court date in October after getting caught driving without a license two years prior — a series of events that led to Marple turning himself in at the police station on Election Day. According to New Hampshire Public Radio, Marple, elected to his fifth term this year, has sponsored legislation to “charge elected servants with treason if they attempt to infringe on land rights granted during the Revolutionary War.” He also appears to have written an op-ed in 2008 titled, “Legally, a woman can't be president.”
Millennials take charge
A lot of young people will be sworn into office next year, perhaps swept into office on the same anti-establishment wave that helped so many candidates further up the ballot. Twenty-six-year-old Michael Tubbs will be the youngest mayor ever of Stockton, California — as well as the first black man to serve in the position. Jewell Jones was the youngest member of the Inkster City Council last year, and now, at 21, he's the youngest representative ever elected in the state of Michigan. Twenty-one-year-old Drew Dennert will be the youngest representative elected in South Dakota. Another 21-year-old, Amber Mariano, is about to become the youngest person to win a state House race in Florida.
None of this, however, changes the fact that the average age of members of the House is currently 57, the average age of senators is 61, or that we are about to inaugurate the oldest president ever.
Missouri: Pizza is going to send out for you
“Missouri Senate moves to end pizza-for-play bank account” is a headline that actually appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 19. If you, too, have promised to do unsavory things when offered a slice of thin-crust glory, you may understand how unsurprising this story is.
Dead public officials asked to keep working in the afterlife
Although the worries about dead voters skewing electoral results are ... misguided, it is possible for the recently deceased to get elected in America — although as of yet it is still impossible for them to serve. After a dead person is elected, another politician higher up the ladder usually just picks someone to replace them. In California, a city treasurer was reelected despite having passed away in September. A special election will be head in Lindstrom, Minnesota, after a city councilman who served for 12 years was reelected despite having died two months ago. A losing candidate in Indiana is suing after he came in fourth place for the three empty seats on the Allen County Council (one of the winners was deceased). Five people have won seats in Congress despite not being alive to see the results.
What's the local angle on Trump?
The president-elect has promised to do lots of things (282, to be exact, by the Washington Post's count), but no one is quite sure what the follow-up will look like, which has left many states scrambling to figure out exactly how they might be affected.
A reporter in Alaska didn't get a response when trying to contact the Trump campaign to see if he really wanted to change Denali back to Mount McKinley. Many drivers in Texas are worried that Trump's infrastructure plans will require the same reliance on toll roads that they've come to hate. Muslims in Utah have reported more incidents of harassment and bullying since the election ended, which prompted the creation of a “Refugee Justice League” of lawyers to help represent them. In Miami, the big question is what happens to the U.S.'s ties with Cuba now that Fidel Castro is dead and a person who promised to sever said ties is about to become president. Several cities in Vermont have passed or are considering resolutions to adopt “sanctuary city” status — despite Trump having threatened to cut off federal funding to these places, which try to help undocumented immigrants by not enforcing immigration law. Those near water in Louisiana are wondering what will happen to coastal restoration and other environmental efforts — which are especially necessary in a state where land keeps disappearing.
What happens next? The resounding answer thus far seems to be: Who knows?
This is the election that never ends
At least in North Carolina, where the incumbent governor has yet to concede and a federal court has just said that a special election needs to be held next year because of 28 unfairly gerrymandered districts. Unless the Supreme Court reverses the decision, that means that the state will have to endure more campaign ads in only a few months.
And that's why you never make ballot language confusing
Colorado voters had a chance this year to get rid of outdated language in the state constitution concerning slavery: “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime.” They didn't — despite the fact that most people seemed to agree it was a good idea. It might have failed simply because the language of the ballot measure was confusing. It read, “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the removal of the exception to the prohibition of slavery and involuntary servitude when used as punishment for persons duly convicted of a crime?” Other ballot measures around the country featured language that was perplexing. Just because it involves government doesn't mean you have to make it boring or incomprehensible, OK?