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Voters Amend State Constitutions Around the Country

Ohio enshrined a right to abortion in the state constitution.


Voters across five states Tuesday considered 28 statewide ballot measures. Many of those measures proposed amendments to state constitutions, addressing issues ranging from abortion rights to tax regulations.

State constitutions, often more malleable than the U.S. Constitution, provide a unique platform for citizens to directly influence policy and legal frameworks at the state level. The ballot measures put before voters encapsulated key societal and political questions. They included both citizen-initiated measures, which require proponents to collect signatures from a certain number of registered voters in a state to get on the ballot, and legislatively referred amendments, which originate in the state legislature.

Below are a few of the most salient constitutional amendments put to voters on Election Day.

Ohio: Reproductive Rights

The debate over reproductive rights reached a crucial juncture in Ohio, with 57 percent of voters in the state voting to amend the state’s constitution to safeguard reproductive freedoms in Issue 1.

The citizen-initiated amendment guarantees that “every individual has the right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.” The amendment is not just about securing the right to abortion but also encompasses a spectrum of reproductive issues, from contraception and fertility treatment to medical care after miscarriage. The measure establishes fetal viability as the threshold for abortion regulations in the state.

The amendment is the latest example of voters across the country coming out in support of abortion rights in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Since then, voters in several states have adopted state constitutional amendments to protect abortion rights or rejected amendments that would restrict those rights: California, Michigan, and Vermont voted to enshrine the right to abortion in their state constitutions, while Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana rejected constitutional amendments that would have restricted abortion access.

Texas: Farming Rights, Taxes, and More

Voters in Texas considered 14 legislatively referred constitutional amendments, a reflection of the state constitution’s restrictive view of the legislative and executive branches’ powers. Because governmental powers are limited to those specified in the state constitution, even small legal or policy changes can require a constitutional amendment.

Texans voted on several constitutional amendments to the state’s tax structure. Most notably, voters passed Proposition 3, which forbids the state legislature from imposing wealth and net worth taxes and has ramifications for high net worth individuals and families contemplating residency or business ventures in the state. Proposition 4, meanwhile, increased the homestead tax exemption — which allows homeowners to shield part of the value of a primary residence from taxation — from $40,000 to $100,000. The amendment is an acknowledgment that home prices across the state have sharply risen in recent years.

Texas voters also approved constitutional amendments to fund specific infrastructure priorities, including upgrading aging water pipes and diversifying water sources (Proposition 6), building gas-powered electrical plants (Proposition 7), and expanding internet availability (Proposition 8).

Finally, Texans considered several measures about regulations and pay in certain professions, namely farming, teaching, and the judiciary. They approved Proposition 1, known as the “right to farm” amendment, which makes it harder for state and local lawmakers to regulate the farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management industries. Proposition 9, which granted cost-of-living raises to retired teachers, also passed, while Proposition 13, which raised the mandatory retirement age for state judges to 79, was defeated.

Maine: Voting Rights, Free Speech, and Respect for Indigenous People

In Maine, several legislatively referred amendments were on the ballot, with significant implications for the state’s cultural identity and democratic framework.

In Question 6, voters approved an amendment that adds visibility to the state’s agreements with its indigenous population. Specifically, official printed copies of Maine’s constitution currently do not include sections that lay out Maine’s treaty obligations to Native Americans living within its borders. According to proponents of the measure, including those provisions in the printed version of the constitution helps restore parts of Maine’s indigenous population’s history and ensures the state’s official documents accurately reflect its commitments to those populations.

Maine voters also rejected two measures meant to bring the state constitution in line with recent federal court rulings, Question 7 and Question 8. Question 7 would have removed the constitutional requirement that people collecting signatures to get an initiative on the ballot must be Maine residents and voters. A federal court found the residency requirement unconstitutional because it violates free speech protections. The requirement is not currently enforced, so the decision not to excise it from the constitution will not change the status quo. 

Voters also rejected Question 8, which sought to remove a provision of the state constitution that prohibits people under guardianship because of mental illness from voting. This amendment would have aligned the state constitution with a federal court’s ruling that found the provision violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The voting restriction is not currently enforced in Maine, despite its presence in the state constitution.

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On November 18, voters in Louisiana will decide on four constitutional amendments, covering topics related to state finances and the governor’s veto power. And 2024 will bring many put many more proposed state constitutional amendments to vote, addressing abortion, marriage equality, and more.

Zoe Merriman is a program associate at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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