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Election night recap: Abortion rights, marijuana, incumbents win

Ohio enshrined abortion rights while legalizing marijuana as Kentucky and Mississippi reelected incumbent governors.
Election night recap: Abortion rights, marijuana, incumbents win
Posted at 6:15 AM, Nov 08, 2023

As voters in Ohio decided on abortion rights and marijuana legalization, voters in Virginia determined whether Gov. Glenn Youngkin should have the backing of a Republican-led legislature. 

Meanwhile, two Southern states had close gubernatorial races, while Rhode Island elected its first Black member of Congress. Here is a look at the major races throughout the U.S. on Tuesday. 

Ohio enshrines abortion rights

Voters in Ohio agreed Tuesday to protect access to abortion services with an amendment to the state constitution, Scripps News and Decision Desk HQ project. With 100% of precincts reporting, 56% of voters said "yes" to Issue 1. 

Issue 1, as approved, overrides the state's ban on abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy. 

Issue 1 allows doctors to legally perform abortions up until "fetal viability," which is defined as "the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient’s treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures." Fetal viability varies, but this standard will generally permit abortions up through at least 21 or 22 weeks of a pregnancy. 

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Ohio voters also legalize marijuana

Ohio voters have chosen to legalize recreational cannabis, making the state the 24th to allow possession by passing Issue 2 by a 56-43 margin in Tuesday's election. 

This year's initiative came eight years after Ohioans soundly rejected a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis. 

Before the election, possession of small amounts of cannabis had been considered a minor misdemeanor in Ohio. 

Tuesday's ballot initiative allows Ohioans over age 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis without penalty. It also permits Ohioans to grow the plant species at home. 

Virginia's GOP governor to have opposition General Assembly

Scripps News and Decision Desk HQ project Democrats will take control of the Virginia House of Delegates, with at least 51 seats out of 100 seats. Democrats are also projected to remain in control of the state Senate, with at least 21 out of 40 seats.

Political insiders view the win for Democrats as a loss for Virginia's Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who was out campaigning for a unified government. 

In an exclusive interview with Scripps News, Youngkin said he was asking for voters to give him a "license to lead" by putting Republicans in the majority in the Senate and House of Delegates. However, voters appeared to reject that call, opting for bipartisanship — with Democrats in control of the statehouse and Youngkin in the executive mansion. 

Going into the night, Democrats held a 22-18 advantage in the Senate while Republicans had a 48-46 advantage in the House of Delegates. 

All 40 Senate and 100 House seats were up for grabs, with some races yet to be determined.

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Incumbents win reelection in gubernatorial races

Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves were expected to face tough reelection bids this year. Despite the tight races, both incumbents came out ahead. 

Beshear defeated Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron by about a 52-48 margin, despite being a state that overwhelmingly votes Republican in presidential elections. 

As part of his strategy, Beshear downplayed his party affiliation and pointed instead to his accomplishments as governor, from creating jobs to leading recovery efforts in a number of disasters — the COVID-19 pandemic, tornadoes, flooding and more.

In Mississippi, Reeves topped Democratic challenger Brandon Presley with more than 52% of the vote.

Democrats made an aggressive effort to turn the race blue this year with Presley, a Mississippi utility regulator, raising more money than Reeves’ campaign.

Rhode Island elects first Black member of Congress

Despite it being an odd-numbered year, there was one congressional race worth watching on Election Day on Tuesday. Voters in Rhode Island decided to elect Democrat Gabe Amo, who will now become the state’s first Black member of Congress. Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District went up for grabs after Rep. David Cicilline resigned to become president of the Rhode Island Foundation. 

Amo defeated Republican Gerry Leonard with nearly 65% of the vote.

Amo was previously a staffer for President Joe Biden, who called to congratulate Amo shortly after polls closed. 

Uvalde returns former mayor 1 year after school shooting

Cody Smith is expected to become the new mayor of Uvalde, Texas, in a special election after Kimberly Mata-Rubio conceded defeat on Tuesday night. Smith previously served as mayor back in 2008 and was reelected in 2010.  

He defeated Mata-Rubio, who lost her 10-year-old daughter in the school shooting, and Veronica Martinez, an elementary school teacher in Uvalde.  

It was the first time the city chose its mayor since the May 2022 massacre when a teenage gunman killed 19 young students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.  

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