In this year’s election, voters went against nearly all of the ballot initiatives backed by Catholic leaders and advocates, except the referendums on minimum wage increases and gun control measures.
Voters passed an assisted suicide measure in Colorado and voted in favor of the death penalty in three states and in favor of legalized recreational marijuana in four states and against it in one. They also voted for minimum wage increases and gun control measures in four states.
In Colorado, the only state with an initiative to legalize assisted suicide, voters passed the measure, making the state the sixth in the nation with a so-called “right-to-die law,” joining Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont and Montana.
“The decision the voters of Colorado have made to legalize physician-assisted suicide via the passage of Proposition 106 is a great travesty of compassion and choice for the sick, the poor, the elderly and our most vulnerable residents,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference.
“Killing, no matter what its motives, is never a private matter; it always impacts other people and has much wider implications,” she said in a Nov. 9 statement.
The three death penalty referendums before voters this year all ended in favor of capital punishment. Bishops and Catholic conferences had engaged in efforts to educate Catholics on this issue and urge them to vote against it.
Oklahoma voters re-approved the use of the death penalty after the state’s attorney general had suspended executions last year. Nebraska voters also reinstated the death penalty, which had been banned by state lawmakers last year; the vote was 60.9 percent for the death penalty and 39.1 percent against it.
Nebraska’s Catholic bishops were among groups that had praised the Legislature for banning the death penalty. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the repeal bill, lawmakers overrode his veto, and then Ricketts and others led a campaign to let voters decide and gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot.
Voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine approved recreational marijuana initiatives, while Arizona voters rejected it. California, Massachusetts and Arizona bishops spoke out against the initiatives.
The Boston Archdiocese spent $850,000 in a last-minute effort to defeat the ballot measure, saying increased drug use was a threat to those served by the Catholic Church’s health and social-service programs.
On minimum wage ballots, voters in Maine, Arizona and Colorado voted to increase the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour by 2020, and in Washington they voted to increase it to $13.50 an hour by 2020. Catholic Charities USA has long been a proponent of raising the minimum wage, as have other groups that work to reduce poverty.
Gun control measures passed in three states— California, Nevada and Washington—and lost in Maine.
Measures on climate change, an issue backed by the Catholic Climate Covenant, were rejected by voters. In Washington state, a ballot initiative called for the first carbon tax in the United States, and a Florida measure would have restricted the ability of homeowners to sell electricity created through rooftop solar panels.—CNS