Election 2012

Election 2012 Campaign Button

Written by Jessica Luther for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

On Tuesday, high-profile political coverage in the national media was mainly focused on the US presidential election, some Senate and House races, and a few state ballot measures. Yet there were a seemingly endless number of smaller, less-publicized elections for city- and state-level positions, votes on state initiatives that flew under the radar, and city and county decisions that were only covered in local news. I have a collected a fair amount of these at Flyover Feminism, a site for which I am an editor.

Here are a few that deserve more attention:

On the reproductive rights front, Robin Marty has already reported on Florida voters rejecting an amendment that “would have dramatically limited access to safe abortion care by restricting state funding for abortion, though it does not exist, limiting private insurance coverage of abortion care, and stripping privacy rights from teen girls seeking to terminate a pregnancy.” She has also written about Montana voters approving a new law requiring “girls under age 16 who seek an abortion…to notify a parent or seek judicial bypass prior to terminating a pregnancy.”

California passed proposition 35 which should be the object of much outrage, especially from people concerned with bodily autonomy, sex workers, and survivors of human trafficking. Melissa Gira Grant wrote on this issue at RH Reality Check, before the vote took place, that prop 35 was “a misguided ballot initiative that targeted the wrong people for the wrong reasons.” She argued that “advocates for survivors of trafficking, civil rights attorneys, and sex workers fear that rather than protect Californians, it will expose their communities to increased police surveillance, arrest, and the possibility of being labeled a “sex offender” for the rest of their lives.” A judge has already put the proposition on hold. Grant has written a follow-up in reaction to the proposition passing.

Most people already know that Maine, Maryland, and Washington all voted to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples and Minnesota voters defeated a state constitutional amendment that would have limited marriage to only between a man and woman. Wisconsin electing Tammy Baldwin to the US Senate has also garnered a fair amount of attention since she will be the first openly gay US senator. Some lesser known but also noteworthy elections:

  • In Arizona’s 9th Congressional district, Kyrsten Sinema is leading (they are still counting votes). If she wins, she will be the first openly bisexual member of the US House. She’s a graduate of Brigham Young University and, having left the Mormon church, would be the only non-theist in Congress.
  • The 41st Congressional district in California elected Mark Takano. An educator from Riverside, California, Takano, an Asian American, will be the first openly gay person of color in the US Congress. He was publicly outed by a political opponent in a 1994 race and his sexuality was used against him. He has said about this election, “Times certainly have changed. And in my current race not a single voter has asked me about being gay.”
  • Pennsylvania’s 182nd district elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives former footballer Brian Sims. He is the first openly gay person elected to that body.

The city of Troy, Michigan, recalled its mayor, Janice Daniels. A tea partier, Daniels has made a number of homophobic remarks including a disparaging Facebook post and she used homophobic slurs while talking to local gay high school students.

At the same time, there is sobering news out of Kansas. The cities of Salina and Hutchinson both overturned protections in their cities to safeguard against the discrimination of LGBT people. The Awaken Kansas project, which is run by the Kansas Family Policy Council Action, claimed that these cities’ anti-discrimination measures hurt religious liberty. It is not terribly surprising that such votes happened in Kansas since, as has been reported often at RH Reality Check, Kansas is a dangerous hotbed of extreme conservative politics (Koch Industries is headquartered in Wichita).

Hawaii had two momentous elections. First, they elected Mazie Hirono as the state’s first woman senator. She is also the first Japan-born immigrant, the first Buddhist, and the first Asian-American woman elected to the US Senate. Stepping into Hirono’s former seat in the US House of Representatives will be Tulsi Gabbard, a 31-year-old Iraq War Veteran, who will be the first Hindu-American to serve in the US Congress. Well done, Hawaii.

In Oklahoma, voters passed a constitutional amendment that ends affirmative action in state government hiring, education, and contracting practices. This passed overwhelmingly with all but one of Oklahoma’s 77 counties approving the change. Sadly, it appears that most major universities in the state were not using affirmative action in their admission process or scholarship decisions so it’s not clear what kind of impact this will have on education.

In Maryland, voters approved a new law that allows undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition. Undocumented students who have attended community college full-time for two years can receive the benefit of in-state tuition discounts at a four-year university. This law has been called Maryland’s version of the DREAM Act. It is the first time that voters in a popular election have approved this legislation.

On the flip side, Montana voters passed a sweeping ballot measure that denies undocumented immigrants from receiving any state services such as unemployment or disability benefits and scholarships for college.

Minnesota had a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required “that voters show official government identification at the polls.” It was voted down, which seems only appropriate on an election day when voter suppression and long voting lines made national news (to the point where, in his victory speech, Obama said, “we have to fix that”).

In good district attorney news:

  • Los Angeles County elected their first ever woman and their first ever African American to the position. Jackie Lacey, who works under the current DA as his chief deputy, will take over the role of managing L.A.’s 1000 prosecutors. She is best known as the lead prosecutor in the Phil Spector murder case, which she won.
  • In Wayne County, Michigan (which includes Detroit), voter re-elected Kym Worthy, who rose to national fame when she pushed the county to analyze thousands of rape kits which led to multiple arrests of serial rapists.

Finally, in South Dakota, voters stood up for teachers when they rejected Referred Law 16. Governor Dennis Daugaard wanted to phase out tenure for teachers and give them competitive bonuses based on student performance. The opposition to the law was led by the main teacher’s union in the state while it was supported by education reformer Michelle Rhee. In the end, 68 percent of voters sided with Montana’s teachers.

Photo from League of Women Voters of California licensed under Creative Commons