The reason why the questions were nonbinding is because only certain districts in the state voted on them. Tarr explained that any change in the law would need to be put to a statewide vote, because allowing one district composed of a handful of communities to dictate the law of the entire state wouldn’t be fair.
“In order to make a law, you can’t rely on just those communities,” Tarr said. “The impact of these questions is more limited because the voting is constrained to a few districts rather than the whole state.”
Each of these three questions, along with other questions posed elsewhere, won approval in every district where they appeared on the ballot across the state. In the greater Newburyport area, each measure won by nearly 10,000 votes.
While the results do not guarantee any action, proponents of the causes addressed in the questions said the results serve as a local litmus test that could potentially spur Washington into action if a particular cause has enough support.
The vote favoring full legalization of marijuana in particular was seen as a major victory by supporters of marijuana reform, who were further buoyed by the approval of Question 3 legalizing medical marijuana in the state, along with similar legalization votes taken in Colorado and Washington.
Even though the votes’ results were clear, the next step is not. State legislators said that while they pay attention to the results of ballot questions, there’s no guarantee that any action will be taken.
“Since they’re nonbinding, I don’t think there’s any obligation on the elected official to act,” said Adam Martignetti, chief of staff for Rep. Mike Costello, who represents the 1st Essex District.
Martignetti said Costello favors both the “Budget for All” and Citizens United questions, and even voted for them himself, but said the people who put the questions on the ballot would likely need to work with him and the other legislators before anything could be done.