Food was doing well in Maine on Tuesday as election results showed voters supported a one-of-a-kind constitutional amendment guaranteeing residents the right to grow, harvest and eat according to their own wishes.
Voters in several U.S. states were weighing in on initiatives seen as a response to policies put in place during the pandemic, including in Texas, where early results showed support for a pair of amendments that would limit restrictions on religious gatherings and visits to nursing homes.
Maine’s single measure declares individuals have an “inalienable right to cultivate, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their choice”. It was well ahead, with two-thirds of ridings reporting results.
“It is always a good idea to guarantee and protect an individual right in the world we live in. Food is life,” said Democratic State Senator Craig Hickman, supporter of the proposal. . “I don’t understand why anyone would be afraid to say it out loud in the constitution.”
Opponents feared the measure would lead some people to try to raise livestock in cities.
In Texas, early results showed strong support for an amendment creating a constitutional right for residents of nursing homes and other group living facilities to designate an “essential caregiver,” who could continue to visit even if the greater public access to the establishment. The amendment would add weight to a similar law enacted earlier this year in Texas.
Like his counterparts elsewhere, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has banned nursing homes from admitting visitors as COVID-19 cases rose at facilities last year. The precaution, which lasted for months, was meant to save lives. It also left the elderly residents unable to connect with family and friends.
“Besides the tragedy of the very sick and death, the saddest story we heard from our constituents was the fact that they couldn’t see their mother, their father, their grandfather, their grandmother. , their aunt, uncle, brother or sister in the nursing homes, ”said Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican who sponsored the amendment. “It was just something that really tore our hearts out.”
Another Texas amendment would ban governments from limiting religious services. It’s a backlash to public health orders in some major cities and counties that restricted the number of people who could congregate indoors at the start of the pandemic.
In another issue related to the pandemic, snap election results showed Colorado voters were leaning against a constitutional amendment requiring legislative approval for the state to spend money received from outside sources, such as the federal government or legal regulations. A conservative group sponsored the initiative after Democratic Governor Jared Polis used his executive powers to distribute nearly $ 1.7 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds in May 2020.
Early results also showed opposition to leading a Colorado proposal to increase the sales tax on marijuana to fund after-school programs, such as tutoring, tech training, mental health counseling and enrichment programs in the arts.
In New Jersey, early results showed that the ‘no’ votes led to the question of whether to expand sports betting – which is already generally legal – to include college games that take place in the state. or involve New Jersey colleges.
In New York, voters decided to make a pandemic voting policy permanent. The state constitution limits postal voting to those who are ill, physically disabled, or absent from the city on polling day. But last year, so-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed temporary law allowing anyone to vote by mail rather than risk exposure to the coronavirus at polling stations. Nearly 2 million people voted by mail in the November 2020 election, more than 20% of New York’s total vote.
The amendment would remove constitutional limitations on postal voting, aligning New York with two-thirds of states that already allow postal voting without excuse or automatically send postal ballots to voters.
Another New York amendment would repeal a constitutional requirement that voters register at least 10 days before an election. This would allow the legislature to allow registration on the same day as voting, which is already legal in 20 states.
“New York’s constitution has barriers that have prevented the state from updating its elections,” said Patrick Berry, democracy program attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice. noted.
A separate constitutional amendment could immediately affect New York’s process to redraw the electoral districts of the United States House and state legislative chambers based on 2020 census data. A commission tasked with recommending maps has come together. split along partisan lines this fall. The ballot measure, among other things, would make it easier for the Democratic-led legislature to pass new cards.
Another New York measure would create a right to “clean air and water” and “a healthy environment”. It marks the resurgence of an environmental movement dating back to 1970, when Illinois adopted the first constitutional duty to maintain “a healthy environment.” A Pennsylvania amendment approved the following year granted specific rights to “clean air” and “clean water”.
David A. Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Missouri. Patrick Whittle contributed from Portland, Maine.