2012 General Election Results
President Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States on January 21, 2013, having won both the Electoral College vote by a margin of 332 to 206, as well as the popular vote by 50.6% to 47.8%.
Majority control of the two congressional chambers remains the same for the 113th Congress as in the 112th Congress. The Senate Democratic caucus gained two members for a 55 to 45 majority control and while the Senate as a whole is now comprised of a record number of women, they still only represent roughly one-fifth of the chamber. Despite Democrats gaining eight seats over their numbers in the House of Representatives at the end of the 112th Congress, the Republicans maintain their control of the House with a 234 to 201 majority.
Since the election, parties in both bodies have elected their leadership, which will remain largely the same in the next Congress. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remain the leaders of their respective party’s caucus for the 113th Congress; similarly Congressman John Boehner (R-OH-8) and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8) remain the leaders of their party’s caucus in the House. Further information on party leadership in the House is available on theHouse Speaker’s websiteas well as the House Democrats’ website. Additional leadership election information for the Senate is available at C-SPAN Campaign 2012and on the National Journal’s website.
The 2012 General Election provided critical choices on issues, as well as leaders, relating to sexual health. Key highlights on decisions made across the country are below.
State Efforts to Block Health Reform Implementation
Measures seeking to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by prohibiting mandatory participation in any health care system were included on November 6th election ballots in four states. All four were amendments to their state’s constitutions; three of the four passed in Alabama (Amendment 6), Montana (LR-122), and Wyoming (Constitutional Amendment A), with 60%, 67%, and 77% support, respectively. Florida’s Amendment 1 was the only measure of its type to be opposed this election, losing with a 51% to 49% vote against the amendment. Voters in Missouri also faced a ballot measure, Proposition E, seeking to block implementation of the ACA by prohibiting the establishment, creation, or operation of a health insurance exchange unless it is created by a legislative act, a ballot initiative, or veto referendum. Prop E passed by a vote of 62% to 38%.
Due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of the ACA’s individual coverage mandate, these contradictory state laws will have no effect on ACA’s provisions, other than potentially barring state agencies and employees from enforcing ACA provisions.
California Raises Punishment for Sex Trafficking of Minors
On November 6th, California voters passed Proposition 35, which raises the punishment for sex trafficking of a minor with force or fraud, in a landslide victory of 81.1%. Punishment for sex trafficking of a minor can now carry a life sentence (the current maximum is eight years) for crimes that involve children. Fines for trafficking will also increase which will be used to pay for services for victims, and all convicted sex traffickers are now required to register as sex offenders.
Supporters of the legislation have noted that this will bring state laws up to federal standards, and make it easier for prosecutors in California to go after traffickers rather than sending these cases to federal agencies. Diane Amato of the LA based Mary Magdalene Project, an organization that helps women who are victims of trafficking, sums up this controversial legislation. “It may not be the perfect proposition but I think it’s needed. There has to be more deterrent, more bite against trafficking at a younger age.”
However, opponents to this legislation argue that though it may be well intentioned, it may not make things better. Opponents to this measure are concerned with a number of aspects of Prop 35, including changes to the laws about prosecuting victims; the potential ineffectiveness of the legislation to encourage victims to come forward; and the allocation of funds derived from the increased fines to law enforcement and organizations that provide services for victims, rather than the victims themselves. Some believe that victims should be directly restituted for their labor; “All the money that comes from a trafficking case should go where it belongs: directly into the hands of the person who survived that exploitation,” states Annie Fukushima, a lecturer on women and gender studies at San Francisco State University. 
Same-Sex Marriage Measures See Historic Victories
Marriage equality advocates were able to declare victory at the ballot box on Election Day 2012. While same-sex marriage had been deemed legal in six states and the District of Columbia prior to November 6, 2012, all of those mandates had come through the courts or legislative activity. In the 2012 elections, voters in three states—Maine, Maryland, and Washington—approved ballot measures that will allow same-sex couples in their states to enter into a civil marriage. In addition, Minnesota voters struck down a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have prohibited same-sex couples from getting married; an amendment that was proposed by same-sex marriage opponents despite the fact that same-sex marriage is already illegal in the state. Minnesota voters’ decision marked the first time in the U.S. that voters had failed to approve a measure to deny same-sex couples the right to marry.
Despite rejecting a same-sex marriage measure in 2009, Maine voters showed their support for marriage equality by voting in favor of Question 1 this year. A majority of Maryland and Washington voters affirmed their legislatures’ decisions to legalize same-sex marriage earlier in 2012, decisions that were put on hold after opponents gathered enough signatures to take the measures to the people. Both measures were supported by the governors who had signed same-sex marriage legislation into law.
Chad Griffin, president of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, hailed the election as a landmark day “for marriage equality” and proclaimed that “we will forever look back at this year as a critical turning point in the movement for full citizenship for LGBT people.”
“Religious Liberty” on the Ballot in Florida
The majority of battles over “religious liberty” have been - and continue to be - played out in the judicial realm rather than at the ballot box this election cycle. However, voters in Florida faced a choice on Proposition 8, a ballot measure referred to as the “Florida Religious Freedom Amendment.” Prop 8 would have overturned existing state law, known as the Blaine Amendment, by allowing state money to go to religious institutions. The Blaine amendment prohibits state funds from directly or indirectly going to any sectarian organizations, which prevents state money from being used for school vouchers to religious schools, Medicaid money from going to church-affiliated healthcare providers, or faith based programs from receiving government grants. Opponents of Prop 8 argued that the amendment was not really about religious freedom, but rather an attempt by the state to gain voter approval for funding religious organizations with taxpayer money. The ballot measure was defeated by a vote of 55% opposed to 45% in favor of passage, so the Blaine amendment stands with state funds being prohibited from going directly or indirectly to any sectarian organizations.
Abortion Decisions Differ in Florida and Montana Election Outcomes
While abortion was a prominent issue during the 2012 election cycle, only two states had ballot initiatives related to restricting access to abortion— Florida and Montana. The two initiatives had opposite results, with Florida’s Amendment 6 being defeated, and Montana’s Legislative Referendum 120 being passed.
Amendment 6 in Florida would have prohibited the use of public funding for abortions, with the exception of rape, incest, and cases where the mother's life was in danger. This proposed amendment also would have overruled court decisions and eliminated state constitutional protections that give women a right to privacy. A 60% vote was required for passage, and only 45% of Floridians voted to pass this initiative. Dierdre Macnab, President of Florida's League of Women Voters, pointed out before the election that Amendment 6 “is an example of a deceptively labeled amendment. It's trying to frighten people that there is public funding of abortion, which there is not in Florida, and disguising the fact that this is about taking away the right to privacy and possibly putting women's lives in danger." Opponents suggested that if passed, it could have enabled the state to pass other abortion restrictions, such as mandatory ultrasound laws, gestational bans on abortion, and mandatory waiting periods before abortions, without interference from the courts.
Legislative Referendum 120 (LR 120) in Montana was passed with a 71% vote to prohibit a physician from performing an abortion on a minor under 16 years of age unless a parent or legal guardian is notified at least 48 hours prior to the procedure, except in the cases of a medical emergency or if consent is waived by a youth court or parent/guardian. With the passing of this ballot initiative, a person who performs an abortion on a minor without parental consent may be subject to criminal prosecution and civil liability. Vetoed by Governor Brian Schweitzer in 2011 and ruled unconstitutional in a 1999 Supreme Court case, this parental notification ballot initiative is likely to be challenged in court, says Planned Parenthood of Montana spokeswoman Stacey Anderson. Anderson said; “What’s at stake is for a couple of girls every year to be placed in harm’s way by a government policy that Montanans don’t need because parents are already doing a great job. Of the 22 minors seeking abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in Montana in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, 21 of them told their parents.”
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Anna Almendrala, “Prop 35 Passes: California Voters Approve Harsher Sentencing For Human Traffickers”, Huffington Post (7 November 2012), accessed 2 December 2012, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/prop-35-passes-california_n_2089305.html>.
Jens Erik Gould, “California’s Prop 35: Why Some Oppose an Anti-Sex-Trafficking Initiative”, Time (5 November 2012) accessed 2 December 2012, <http://nation.time.com/2012/11/05/californias-prop-35-why-some-oppose-an-anti-sex-trafficking-initiative/>.
“Our View: Same-sex marriage vote made history,” Portland Press Herald (8 November 2012), <http://www.pressherald.com/opinion/same-sex-marriage-vote-made-history_2012-11-08.html?searchterm=same-sex+marriage>.
“Mainers vote to legalize same-sex marriage,” Portland Press Herald (7 November 2012), accessed 28 November 2012, <http://www.pressherald.com/politics/Same-sex-marriage-question-challenges-voters-from-the-heart.html>.
Florida Department of State, Division of Elections, accessed 2 December 2012, <http://election.dos.state.fl.us/initiatives/initdetail.asp?account=10&seqnum=86>.
State Constitutional Amendment, Florida, accessed 2 December 2012, <http://enight.elections.myflorida.com/Constitutional/Amendment.aspx>.
Florida Department of State Division of Elections, Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights (Article 1, Section 28), <http://election.dos.state.fl.us/initiatives/initdetail.asp?account=10&seqnum=82>.
CNN Politics Election Center, Florida Ballot Measure Race, Florida Amendment 6: No Public Funds for Abortion,accessed 29 November 2012, <http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/results/state/FL/ballot>.
Laura Bassett, HuffPo Politics, “Florida Amendment 6 Would Erase Women's Reproductive 'Privacy' From State Constitution” (5 November 2012) <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/florida-amendment-6_n_2078301.html>.
Project Vote Smart, Parental Notice of Abortion Act of 2011, Montana Ballot Measure: Legislative Referendum No. 120, <http://votesmart.org/elections/ballot-measure/1648/parental-notice-of-abortion-act-of-2011#.ULUuEYZLPAw>.
Gwen Florio, Ravalli Republic, “On the ballot: Should doctors notify parents before abortions?”(12 October 2012), <http://www.ravallirepublic.com/news/state-and-regional/article_9c892d8f-d0c7-529a-bf81-9701116f96dc.html>.