Last night’s midterm election results were bleak, but before you abandon all hope and submit to the control of our latest round of Red State Overlords, take a second to remind yourself about some pretty great things that Americans voted in favor of yesterday. Here are nine of them.
1. The right to choose won
Colorado and North Dakota voted against “personhood initiatives,” which would have granted legal protection to fetuses, basically declaring that fertilized eggs are children. Reproductive rights groups breathed a huge sigh of relief, not only because the measures were struck down, but because they were struck down by an overwhelming majority (63% to 37% in Colorado, and 64% to 36% in North Dakota).
2. Weed won, too
Oregon voted yes on Measure 91, which made recreational weed use legal. If you’re 21, you’ll be able to buy marijuana starting in July. Alaska passed Ballot Measure 2, which will also legalize weed, but it’ll take longer for Alaskans to be able to purchase it; the Department of Commerce has nine months to set up a way to regulate marijuana sales. Citizens of Washington D.C. still can’t buy weed, but they voted to make it legal to possess two ounces of it, as long as you’re over 21.
Florida needed 60% of the vote to legalize medical marijuana, but they only captured 57%. Alas.
3. More people will make a livable wage soon
Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, states not generally known as fiscally progressive strongholds, all passed ballot measures to raise the minimum wage past its $7.25/hr federal baseline. In most states, the measures even passed by a significant margin (except for South Dakota, where it won by only 53%). The increase won’t come immediately — not until 2016 or 2017, depending on the state. But in Alaska and South Dakota, it’s more than just a one-time increase; the minimum wage is now linked to inflation, so it can continue to rise to keep up with the cost of living.
Individual cities and local elections, like those of San Francisco, Oakland and Milwaukee, also saw minimum wage increases get passed, which will also be phased in over time and which will hopefully make daily life and supporting a family more feasible for hourly wage workers.
4. Scott Brown lost to a woman — again
The former Republican senator from Massachusetts made gazillions of enemies back in 2012 with his misogynistic attacks on Elizabeth Warren, a thing that contributed to her complete shellacking of him in the election. So Brown moved to New Hampshire to try to unseat Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen. She smacked him down too, with plenty of help from Elizabeth Warren.
5. Gina Raimondo became the first female governor of Rhode Island
The state treasurer beat out both a Republican and Independent candidate after promising a complete overhaul of the state’s ailing pension program. Despite being a pretty heavily Democratic state, Rhode Island hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since the Clinton administration. An unapologetic social liberal, Raimondo has been an outspoken supporter of marriage equality and immigration reform. And she rode that wave of progressive thinking to victory.
6. A record number of women were elected
100 women will serve in the 114th Congress, the largest number ever, thanks in large part to a push from the Republican party to elect female representatives to combat the inevitable “Grand Old White Man Party” label they’ll be branded with during 2016 presidential election (due to the fact that it is true). Sadly, most of the women who were elected are vehemently opposed to abortion and marriage equality. But hey, maybe the United States won’t rank 86th in the world anymore when it comes to electing female politicians.
7. Texans struck down fracking for the first time
Denton became the first place in Texas to ban fracking inside the city limits, despite the huge amount of money the oil industry funneled into the campaign to vote down the ban. It turns out citizens of Denton are more concerned about protecting their natural resources and, you know, not causing earthquakes than they are with making rich white assholes even richer. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
8. Dallas did right by its LGBT citizens
Dallas voters added nondiscrimination protections for LGBT city employees to the City Charter with 77 percent supporting to add both “sexual orientation and “gender identity and expression.” Dallas already had similar nondiscrimination protections in their equal employment opportunity policy but wasn’t included in the City Charter.
9. California takes a stand against the War on Drugs and mass incarceration
Californians approved Proposition 47, which will “change six low-level, nonviolent offenses — including simple drug possession — from felonies to misdemeanors.” That means 20,000 people will be eligible for re-sentencing, and between 20,000 and 40,000 will avoid incarceration for drug-related misdemeanors. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that the measure will save the state up to a billion dollars, all of which will be funneled to “schools, victim services, and mental health and drug addiction treatment.”