Eight Surprising Election Day Ballots Today

PHOTO: Different strains of marijuana are displayed during the grand opening of the Seattle location of the Northwest Cannabis Market on Feb. 13, 2013.
Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

It is an Election Day with no presidential race, no interactive maps to refresh to see if one state or another went red or blue, no balance of the Senate or House hanging by a thread.

But there are some interesting, quirky, and straight-up crazy things being decided tonight. The ballots range from a group of counties that was to secede from Colorado, to 35 candidates who want to become mayor of Minnesota's largest city, to gambling, weed, and booze. Here are eight surprising Election Day 2013 contests:

1. Will Colorado Carve Out A 51st State?

If 11 districts in Colorado have their way, there will be. This election day, 11 of Colorado's 64 counties are voting to secede from the state, beginning the process to become their own independent state.

Proponents driving the secession movement claim that it is a necessary measure to give them a political voice. Currently, the state legislature is under Democratic control, and proponents of the secession plan say conservative, rural districts like theirs are being ignored.

If the measure passes, the districts will have cleared the first hurdle in the secession process. But, the road ahead will be very challenging. In order to officially form a new state, the districts will need to get approval from the state legislature and Congress.

Good luck with that.

2. In One Maryland Town, Teens Get To Vote

Most teenagers look forward to getting their driver's license on their 16th birthday, but Takoma Park, Md., teens have gained another right.

The Takoma City Council granted 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in municipal elections, this May. And according to local ABC affiliate, WJLA, city officials say about 90 percent of Takoma Park's eligible younger voters have registered to vote.

Takoma Park is the first in the nation to lower the voting age to 16.

3. Will New York Become The Next Sin City?

Probably not, but today the Big Apple's residents and voters across the state will weigh in on a measure approving more full-scale casinos in the state.

The proposal in question will "authorize and regulate up to seven casinos for the purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated."

If the measure passes, New York will become the most populous U.S. state to allow full-scale casinos on non-Indian land.

A major supporter of the bill is Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. With five full-scale casinos run by Indian tribes already in the state, Cuomo argued during an October news briefing that the measure is merely bringing regulation and profit to an industry that already exists within the state.

"It's not really should we go there, or not -- we're there. The question is should we regulate them better, maximize the resources and create jobs in upstate New York."

4. Candidates Crowd Minneapolis Ballot

As voters in Minneapolis head to the polls, they will face an unusually long ballot -- 35 candidates to be the city's next mayor.

Why such a crowded field? First, Mayor R.T. Rybak's decision not to seek a third term, and second, the incredibly low candidate filing fee of $20.

Not only will Minneapolis voters be faced with a lengthy list of choices for Rybak's successor, they will also partake in the confusing process of "ranked choice voting," where voters select their first, second, and third choice in the race.

The large field of candidates has attracted some colorful personalities, including the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidate, Jeffrey Alan Wagner, who made a splash this election cycle with a striking campaign ad.

In it, Wagner emerges from a lake shirtless, underwear clad, dripping wet from a swim, and carrying a coffee mug. The mayoral candidate then tells voters that, "Over a million dollars is going to be spent to become the mayor of Minneapolis, a $100,000-a-year job." Wagner continues, "I'm cool with making $100,000 a year. I will not take money from the developers, I will not take money from the political angle. I will not even go to the strip clubs anymore. Wake the f*** up!"

5. Mary Jane Might Be Moving To Maine

Today, voters in Maine will be voting on a proposal to legalize and tax recreational marijuana, allowing adults 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of the bud (but not purchase or sell).

If the bill passes, Maine will join Washington and Colorado, which last year legalized adult possession of up to one ounce of weed. Many consider the vote to be a possible precedent on whether the East Coast is ready for legal pot.

David Boyer, the Maine political director for D.C. pro-legalization group the Marijuana Policy Project, said marijuana authorization in Maine is meaningful not just for the coast, but for the country.

"I think there's national implications, keeping the momentum that Washington and Colorado started last November in ending marijuana prohibition," Boyer told the Associated Press. "This is just the next domino."

6. Let Them Drink Beer?

Hyde Park, Utah, is a small, mostly Mormon town (population 4,000) that will vote on a proposal allowing the city's sole convenience store, Maverik Country Store, to sell beer with an alcohol content of 3.2 percent.

Danielle Mattiussi, Maverik's executive regional director, told the a local newspaper, the Herlald Journal, that beer sales would increase profit for the whole store by at least 24 percent—which would translate to more sales tax revenue for the city itself.

"We want there to be an association with Maverik as a one-stop convenient place to get milk and bread and fuel, and beer is just adding to that," said Maverik.

But the issue has been hotly debated among residents and officials of Hyde Park, one of the last dry towns in Utah. The varied opinions were on display at a recent city council candidate event prior to the election.

Councilman Mark Hurd said he "morally…objects to the consumption of a mind-altering substance," adding, "It will have a significant impact on our community … our city is better served by looking for funding in better areas."

7. Save The Astrodome

Today Houston residents will vote on whether to save or demolish the famous Astrodome, once nicknamed the eighth wonder of the world.

Built in 1965, the Astrodome was home to Major League Baseball's Astros and the NFL Houston Oliers. The Astros and the New York Yankee's played for the dome's first ever game.

What L.A Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne called "a singular monument to the American confidence and Texas swagger of the 1960s," in an emotional op-ed asking for the landmark's preservation, has lost some of glory day glimmer. The Astrodome hasn't been home to a sport team since 1999, and hasn't been used for an event since 2009.

In recent memory it's remembered for housing Hurricane Katrina victims.

If proposition 2 is passed, the Astrodome will be saved from demolition in favor of "The New Dome Experience," approving renovations that will allow the space to be used for trade shows, sport competitions and other events.

But with $2-3 million already spent every year by the city on maintenance and security, along with the possibility for more parking and tailgating space in the absence of the structure, it remains to be seen if Houston residents will save the dome.

8. A New Food Labeling Law In Washington State?

Voters in Washington State are deciding on whether or not to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients this election day.

If passed, initiative 522 would require all foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. This initiative has brought lots of attention, and millions of dollars from out of state, to Washington this election cycle. According to the Huffington Post, "the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which collected money from some of the nation's top food companies, and five major corporations have raised $22 million to defeat Initiative 522. Food-labeling supporters have raised $7.8 million, backed by Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and consumer groups."

If food labeling supporters have their way at the polls, Washington will become the first state to enact a labeling law on foods containing genetically modified organisms. Connecticut passed a labeling law last summer, but it will not take effect until several other states pass similar laws.

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