Obama wins as state ballot measures clash with federal law


By Geoff Whiting and Zach Rausnitz

President Obama will return to the White House in 2013 for another 4-year term as president, taking both the electoral college and popular vote in election returns delivered Nov. 6. 

Republican candidate Mitt Romney delivered a brief, late-night concession speech, thanking family and supporters and congratulating the president.

Compared to 2008, turnout in the counties surrounding Washington, D.C.--places with large concentrations of federal workers--was varied. In Maryland's Montgomery and Prince George's counties, fewer people voted in 2012 than in 2008, but Obama won both overwhelmingly and by similar margins as he did in 2008.

In Virginia's Fairfax County, total turnout was down about 15 percent from 2008, but Obama's portion of the vote remained around 60 percent. Roughly 7 percent more people voted in Arlington County in 2012, as the percentage voting for Obama dipped slightly to 69 percent.

Turnout in Washington, D.C. itself dropped about 8 percent, but Obama topped 90 percent of the vote in both elections.

Meanwhile, several states passed ballot measures that will likely increase tensions between federal and local government, the role of the latter having been a major issue in the election. 

Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, a substance still banned under federal law.

Colorado approved Proposition 64 to make it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess marijuana and for businesses to sell it. Local governments are allowed to license, regulate and prohibit new marijuana businesses. Washington also passed Initiative Measure 502, which allows anyone over the age of 21 to grow, process, distribute or use marijuana, as long as they adhere to a new licensing scheme.

These ballot measures remove state penalties but cannot guarantee that federal laws banning marijuana won't be used against citizens--where state and federal laws clash, federal law takes precedence.

The Obama administration has not made it clear how it will handle the new state laws, but Kevin Sabet, who worked a senior adviser to the president's Office of National Drug Control Policy, told NBC News that "we will see an effort by the feds to shut it down."

Two states asked voters whether to prohibit requirements to buy health insurance like those in the Affordable Care Act. Florida rejected Amendment 1 (.pdf)  with 51.5 percent of voters opposed. Amendments in Florida require 60 percent approval to become state law.

Alabama's Amendment 6 (.pdf) passed, but The Birmingham News notes that the amendment is likely only symbolic, since the Affordable Care Act trumps state law.

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