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Magic mushrooms, flags, wolves and weed: Americans will be voting on all sorts on Tuesday

It’s not just the presidency that’s to be decided.

Coloradans will be asked whether grey wolves should be reintroduced.
Coloradans will be asked whether grey wolves should be reintroduced.
Image: Shutterstock

IT’S NOT JUST the occupant of the White House that Americans will be voting on on Tuesday. And no, we’re not talking about the Senate or House of Representatives either.

Election day in the US is a chance for people in different states to directly vote on potential laws.

Propositions, as they’re usually called, are essentially referendums on specific issues that often force some significant societal changes across the US. 

For example, state-wide plebiscites on same-sex marriage were common in the previous decade before the Supreme Court stepped in in 2015 to make it legal across the US. 

Propositions, also known as ballot initiatives, can also mean that some seemingly strange votes are taken by people when they go to the polls. Such as in 2008 when Californians had to vote on whether battery chickens should have the right to stand up.  

So what kind of votes are we looking at this year? 

The status of marijuana has been a particularly common question for propositions in recent years and this year is no different.  

At present, there are 11 US states where cannabis is legal for recreational reasons and four more states are voting on this on Tuesday: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota.

A total of 33 states have approved the medical use of cannabis and the conservative state of Mississippi will on Tuesday ask voters for the first time if they are content to legalise the drug for medicinal use.

Meanwhile, Oregon residents will be asked whether certain psychedelic plants like magic mushrooms can be used to treat mental health issues such as depression.

In Washington DC, voters will also be asked whether to decriminalise magic mushrooms, following the example of several other states.   


The question of the reintroduction of wolves has one that’s been raised in Ireland recently - heck, we even did a whole podcast about it - and a variant of this question now faces the people of Colorado. 

If residents answer Yes to Proposition 114, its Parks and Wildlife Commission will have to plan by 2023 for an arrangement to reintroduce grey wolves, which disappeared from the state in the 1940s.

The idea, according to the Colorado Sun, is that doing so will provide a bridge between gray wolf populations in the north and south of the country, helping the species rebound.

But farmers, ranchers and big game hunters are wary, the Sun says.


Voters in Mississippi will cast their ballot for a new state flag featuring a magnolia tree, after the old one — which bore the emblem of the Confederacy — was retired over the summer.

Voters in the Southern state, which fought on the side of slavery in the Civil War in the 1860s, will have to decide whether to adopt the new flag as their state emblem or find another.

Meanwhile, voters in the smallest of the 50 US states — officially called the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” — will be asked whether they are willing to shorten the name to remove the reference to the large slave estates.

In 2010, they were asked the same question, and refused.

Fancy a Lyft?

California voters will answer a question that could upend the whole gig economy: Are Uber and Lyft drivers actually employees of the Silicon Valley behemoths, or are they independent contractors?

The tech giants have injected millions of dollars to persuade voters to side with them and overturn a law which became effective this year requiring the ride-sharing companies to pay drivers minimum wage and to give them vacation time and unemployment benefits.

Californians will also have to decide on a revolutionary change to the criminal justice system: should the cash bail system be replaced by a new state law in which judges would assess the risk of allowing defendants to remain in society?

Those for the shift argue that the current system of cash bail penalises defendants who cannot afford to pay. But others say it endangers a flourishing bail industry and could increase the number of people behind bars.

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Paid sick leave

Eight states and the city of Washington have already granted the right to paid sick leave to their residents without going through the ballot box.

Colorado, however, is asking voters to consider creating the right to up to 12 weeks of paid sick leave, funded by a payroll tax.

Such measures are more controversial in the US than in Europe but the coronavirus pandemic has moved the issue to the fore. 


Louisiana residents will decide whether to amend their state’s constitution to add language stating that it offers no protection for the right to abortion or funding for abortion.

Critics say the Bible Belt state is preparing for a possible reversal of the US Supreme Court 1973 ruling which declared that Americans have the right to an abortion.

The US Senate has just confirmed the third justice chosen by Donald Trump to the court, raising conservative hopes that Roe v Wade could finally be undone.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2020

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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