In Minnesota, the question was whether the state would join 30 others in placing a ban on gay marriage in its constitution. Even if the ban is defeated, same-sex marriage would remain illegal in Minnesota under statute.
Heading into the election, gay marriage was legal in six states and Washington — in each case the result of legislation or court orders, not by a vote of the people.
In California, voters were deciding whether to repeal the state’s death penalty. If the measure prevailed, more than 720 inmates on death row there would have their sentences converted to life in jail.
While 17 states have ended capital punishment, most did so through legislative action. Only in Oregon, in 1964, did voters choose to repeal the death penalty; they later reversed the decision to reinstate it.
In all, there were 176 measures on the ballots on Tuesday in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.