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Photo: Stephen Morton/Getty Images

Voters across the country weighed in on hundreds of ballot initiatives in this year’s midterm cycle on politically-charged issues such as abortion, marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform.

The big picture: The 2018 midterm elections produced a divided Congress that's emblematic of a split America. Amid partisan deadlock in Washington, states have largely become battlegrounds on such controversial issues.

Some notable measures:

Marijuana legalization: Michigan became the 10th state to legalize marijuana — including the District of Columbia — and first midwestern state to do so for recreational use. North Dakota rejected a similar measure, but voters in Missouri approved the legalization of medical marijuana.

Abortion: The matter was on the ballot in three states. In Oregon, voters defeated a measure that would have banned the use of public funds to pay for abortion coverage. Alabama and West Virginia approved sweeping anti-abortion language to the states’ constitution, proclaiming that women have no right to perform the procedure.

  • However, the measures in both states will not affect abortion access unless the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Transgender rights: Massachusetts upheld a 2016 law that protects transgender people from discrimination in public places, including restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and stores.

Minimum wage: Arkansas will now raise the wage from $8.50 an hour to $11 by 2021. Missouri's hourly minimum will gradually rise from $7.85 to $12 hour by 2023.

Criminal justice reform: Louisiana approved a measure to require a unanimous jury for convictions, overturning a Jim Crow-era law that allowed for split juries.

Medicaid expansion: Three red states — Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah — approved initiatives to adopt the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid.

Daylight saving: Californians decided they no longer want to reset clocks twice a year. A measure they approved would implement a permanent year-round daylight saving time. But, it requires a two-thirds vote from the state legislature and a change in federal law to go into effect.

Homelessness: San Francisco will impose tax on big businesses to pay for new services to help curb the city's increasing homelessness crisis. The measure's approval is a major defeat for techies like Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, and Stripe CEO Patrick Collision who were against the measure.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 3 hours ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.