Last Tuesday’s election night was full of excitement culminating in the reelection of President Obama. However, this news overshadowed many other important election decisions that have the possibility to create public policy changes not only in Michigan, but throughout the country as a whole.
First, there has been a lot of talk on Facebook and Twitter about the possibility of Puerto Rican statehood. People are wondering about the statehood petition process, the potential change of the U.S. flag, and the fact that the island nation of nearly 4 million overwhelmingly speaks Spanish.
To clear things up, the statehood process is not all that complicated. Article IV Section III of the Constitution says that Congress has the authority to administer new states, but it gives few details on how to do so. A referendum is held by the territory asking its citizens if statehood is desired. If this vote wins, the territory submits a formal petition to the U.S. government. Both houses of Congress must pass this petition by a simple majority vote, and then it awaits a Presidential signature. No territory has ever been denied statehood.
The fact is that some people who are welcoming the 51st state may be jumping the gun. The ballot in question was interestingly written with two questions: the first asking if the territorial status should stay the same; the second asking people to vote for either statehood, independence, or a free association with the U.S.
The first question was narrowly voted “no” by a majority of 54%, meaning that Puerto Ricans want a change in the status quo. The second question resulted in 805,155 (61.13%) for statehood, 438,896 (33.32%) for a free association and 72,978 (5.54%) for complete independence. On the surface it looks as though Puerto Ricans want to become the 51st state.
However, 470,032 voters, who presumably do not want a change at all, left the second question blank in an intentional move. Many claim that by asking both questions simultaneously, voters who do not want a change were actually forced into voting for a change on the second question.
It is unclear at the moment if there is a true majority of Puerto Ricans who desire statehood, but the island may regardless take the opportunity to attempt to become the 51st state.
Marijuana legalization was another big story from last week’s election. For the first time marijuana was legalized in two states: Colorado and Washington. Marijuana will be treated similar to alcohol, meaning that only those 21 years and older could possess it. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and it is still not known how the federal government will react to this.
In Colorado, the success of the ballot initiative can be attributed partly to the state’s successful implementation of the medical marijuana industry. In Michigan, the cities of Detroit, Flint, Ypsilanti and Grand Rapids all voted to decriminalize marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal in the state, but small amounts of possession in those cities will only result in fines. The decriminalization move will allow police to focus on more important crimes.
L.G.B.T. supporters also gained some ground in this election. The states of Maine, Maryland and Washington all legalized same-sex marriage. Earlier this year President Obama became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage. Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin will become the first openly gay senator in U.S. history.
Veteran Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii will become the first Hindu congresswoman in U.S. history. Her election is a step forward in the direction of religious diversity amongst our legislators.
Meanwhile, Michigan voters shot down the emergency manager law that was implemented by Gov. Rick Snyder. They also voted against all five ballots initiatives, despite heavy spending by private interest groups to promote the proposals.
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