Five key takeaways from the U.S. midterm elections

There was no shortage of storylines in Tuesday’s U.S. midterm elections.

From a new distribution of power in Washington, to history-making elections in several parts of the country, it was a day with the potential to reshape American politics for some time to come.

Voters across the country also voiced their opinions on a total of 155 ballot measures, some of which could have a significant impact in their states.

Here is a look at five of the most notable outcomes of the midterms.

Historic firsts

The 116th U.S. Congress will be the first to include a Muslim woman or a native American woman. In fact, it will have two of each.

Ilhan Omar won a resounding victory in Minnesota’s 5th District, as did Rashida Tlaib in Michigan’s 13th District. They will be the first female Muslim representatives in Congress.

Likewise, voters elected two native American women to Congress for the first time ever. New Mexico’s Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids of Kansas will be the first Congressional representatives to identify as Native American women.

Meanwhile, Colorado Governor-elect Jared Polis was the first openly gay governor to be elected in the United States.

All five are Democrats.

Michigan goes to pot

Michigan became the 10th state to allow recreational use of pot, with a ballot measure on the issue seeing voters in favour of legalizing the drug.

People aged 21 or older will be able to buy and use the drug in Michigan.

A similar proposal in North Dakota was voted down.

Elsewhere, voters in Missouri and Utah opted to legalize medicinal marijuana, bringing the total number of states doing so to 32.

Goodbye greyhounds; hello higher wages

Ballot measures were part of the midterm elections in 37 states, with voters in many jurisdictions making important decisions about everything from LGBT rights to the minimum wage.

Voters in Massachusetts upheld a law banning discrimination against transgender people, while a vote in Florida resulted in the state banning betting on greyhound races as of 2021.

Other ballot measures resulted in minimum wage increases, with the baseline to be set at $11 per hour by 2021 in Arkansas and hitting $12 per hour in Missouri by 2023.

In Ohio, voters turned down a proposal to make drug possession a lower class of crime. Proponents of reclassifying it as a misdemeanour had argued that it would reduce the number of people in the state’s prisons and free up funding for drug treatment programs.

Florida in flux

Often considered an important swing state in the national electoral picture – remember the disputed 2000 presidential election? – Florida once again played host to some election-night nail-biters.

The state’s senior Senator, Bill Nelson, lost to Republican challenger Rick Scott by fewer than 35,000 votes. By percentage, the vote split was 50.2 per cent for Scott and 49.8 per cent for Nelson.

The incumbent-less governor’s race was nearly as close, with Republican Ron DeSantis garnering 49.7 per cent of votes and Democrat Andrew Gillium landing 49 per cent. The two were separated by just over 55,000 of the more than eight million votes cast.

Florida’s electoral makeup could be in for another shift in the near future, as voters approved a ballot measure to restore voting rights for more than one million ex-felons. The measure’s approval means anyone who completes a sentence for a crime other than murder or sex offences will automatically have their ability to vote restored.

A new political reality

Through the first two years of his term, U.S. President Donald Trump was able to push most of his agenda through a friendly, Republican-controlled Congress.

While the Senate remains Republican, the House of Representatives now has a Democratic majority – meaning the Democrats will find themselves chairing important committees and having the ability to hold up Trump’s agenda.

However, because the Democrats’ majority is slim and party discipline is not nearly as strong in the U.S. as it is in Canada, some experts say it could be difficult for the party to consistently pass legislation with a unified voice.

Trump appeared unbothered by his party losing full control of Congress, tweeting that the midterms were a “tremendous success” and politicians could now “get back to work and get things done.”

With files from The Associated Press





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