Four More for Obama, Historic Ballot Measures Passed

Emily Lin-Jones

Cheers (and groans) resounded across campus Tuesday night as general election results poured in from across the nation, confirming Barack Obama’s reelection as president of the United States.

President Obama won the electoral college handily, clinching crucial battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia early in the night. He took the popular vote more narrowly, squeaking by at roughly 50 percent to Romney’s 48 percent––a slim margin compared to his seven percentage point lead in the 2008 election.

Congress emerged largely unchanged, with Democrats retaining control of the Senate and the GOP continuing to hold the House of Representatives but losing some seats.

“As leading Republicans assess their party’s losses yesterday, some are bound to argue that the party needs to do some concrete things to increase its appeal to Latinos, especially in the area of immigration reform,” said Professor of Politics and Chair of Political Science Paul Apostolidis in an email.

Though the party composition of Congress hasn’t changed much, newly elected female senators have brought the total number of women in Senate to a record high of 20.

“I was pleased that candidates who made ridiculous statements about women’s bodies and sexual assault lost. Voting down these candidates and electing more women is a hopeful sign,” said Assistant Professor of Politics Susanne Beechey in an email.
For many, the real excitement of the night came when historic ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana use and same-sex marriage were passed in Washington and other states.

Though ballots were still being counted Wednesday night, supporters of Washington’s Referendum 74 announced victory with a four percentage point lead over the opposition.

“I’m so excited that [Referendum 74] passed!” said senior Rebecca Helgeson, a student campaign worker, in an email. “It was hard to tell solely from the phone banks that we had been doing what the result was going to be.”

Maine and Maryland voters approved same-sex marriage referenda as well, marking the first time in U.S. history that same-sex marriage has been legalized by voters and not the courts. Wisconsin congresswoman Tammy Baldwin also became the first openly gay individual to be elected to Senate.

“I definitely think it shows a shift in attitude; however, these [measures] are not the end-all. There are so many other challenges that GLBTQ individuals face,” said Helgeson.

In another historic move, Washington’s Initiative 502, which will allow individuals over 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use, passed with a solid 55.4% “Yes” vote. Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 to accomplish the same objective, making these two states the first in the nation to legalize nonmedical use of the drug.

Some are skeptical of the law’s longevity since it is in conflict with federal law.

“My sense is that moving beyond medicinal marijuana will force the issue of federalism,” said Beechey. “The differences between federal and state drug laws will need to be worked out and generally this means federal law rules.”

Overall, even supporters of President Obama agreed that the general mood paled in comparison to the previous presidential election.
“I was happy, but I think that the excitement of this campaign compared to 2008 just wasn’t there,” said Helgeson. “It seems to me as a ‘return to normal’ rather than the excitement and ‘hope’ that I saw in 2008.”

Others voiced open disappointment with the possible continuation of some of Obama’s more controversial policies.

“I’m curious to see how second-term Obama compares to first-term Obama, if he will break first-term Obama’s record number of deportations, continue to bomb Yemen and Pakistan, and continue to increase funding for the War on Drugs in the U.S. and abroad,” said senior Henry Gales in an email.

“In 2008 I had hope, but [because of these] policies which I don’t expect Obama to alter, I’m not looking to Washington for social and political change.”