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State Voters With Minds of Their Own

More than 20 percent of Americans now live in states where marijuana is legal

  • Frustrated by a do-nothing Congress, voters took policy matters into their own hands on Tuesday by passing state ballot proposals to legalize marijuana, approve new transportation projects, raise state minimum wages and strengthen gun control laws.
  • The measures, adding to the recent wave of state and local minimum wage increases around the country, show again that voters want to alleviate working-class poverty and that the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage, which Congress last increased in 2009 , is woefully inadequate.
  • Los Angeles County’s Measure M, which will invest $120 billion over 40 years in a fast-growing transit system, won the support of nearly 70 percent of voters.
  • Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTOpinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter .
  • Arizona , Colorado , Maine and Washington voted to raise their state minimum wages to at least $12 an hour by 2020 and to automatically adjust them for inflation after that.

Citizens supported some progressive measures at the ballot box, even as they were electing Donald Trump.

@nytopinion: More than 20 percent of Americans now live in states where marijuana is legal

Frustrated by a do-nothing Congress, voters took policy matters into their own hands on Tuesday by passing state ballot proposals to legalize marijuana, approve new transportation projects, raise state minimum wages and strengthen gun control laws. That these progressive measures won is an indication that voters are moving left on many issues, despite Donald Trump’s victory.

Marijuana wins big. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota and Montana passed measures to make the drug available for medical use. With these new laws, more than 20 percent of the American population lives in a state or territory that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. This should push President-elect Trump and the next Congress to remove the drug from the Controlled Substances Act and repeal federal criminal penalties for possessing small quantities of marijuana. This would give states that are moving ahead with legalization certainty that the federal government will not try to thwart their policies.

Support for mass transit. Residents of Los Angeles, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere across the country voted to increase local taxes to expand and improve rail lines, bus service and roads and bridges. Los Angeles County’s Measure M, which will invest $120 billion over 40 years in a fast-growing transit system, won the support of nearly 70 percent of voters. In the Seattle area, Sound Transit will invest $54 billion over 25 years in expanding its system, and the Bay Area Rapid Transit system will put $3.5 billion into rebuilding its network. These were all big victories for commuters and should encourage Congress to appropriate more federal matching funds to infrastructure projects.

Higher minimum wages in blue and red states. Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington voted to raise their state minimum wages to at least $12 an hour by 2020 and to automatically adjust them for inflation after that. Maine will also raise the subminimum tipped wage. The initiatives in Arizona and Washington also provided for minimum paid sick leave. And in South Dakota, a ballot proposition that would have established a lower state minimum for non-tipped workers under age 18 failed by a large margin. These measures, adding to the recent wave of state and local minimum wage increases around the country, show again that voters want to alleviate working-class poverty and that the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage, which Congress last increased in 2009, is woefully inadequate.

Stronger gun control. Voters in California approved Proposition 63, mandating background checks for ammunition purchases, banning large-capacity magazines that can hold more than 10 cartridges and requiring law enforcement to confiscate the weapons of newly convicted felons. In Washington, a majority backed a proposal to give judges the power to seize the weapons of people deemed a threat to public safety or their families. And Nevada residents approved a proposal to expand background checks for private gun sales with a few exceptions, like sales to immediate family members. However, a similar proposal in Maine was defeated.

If Mr. Trump’s election was a reflection of voter anger with the Washington establishment, these initiatives are a clear signal that many Americans are clamoring for solutions that will make their lives better.

State Voters With Minds of Their Own

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