Early Wednesday morning, only 61 percent of Washington state votes were in, according to Reuters. Nonetheless, the Associated Press predicted that voters were on track to have approved a measure extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, bringing the number of victories to four out of four contests on the question of same-sex marriage.
But in the all mail-in ballot system, some are predicting a vote count that may stretch throughout the day and even beyond, though approval of same-sex marriage has remained consistently ahead of ballots rejecting as the tallies have ticked slowly up.
In a historic turn of the political tide, Washington voters have likely joined electorates in Maryland and Maine in choosing to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, with Minnesota voters narrowly choosing to reject a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.
Supporters of Referendum 74 expressed cautious optimism leading up to election day, but few LGBT activists had predicted that election night would be so successful for efforts to either expand marriage rights, or halt efforts to curtail possibilities of extending those rights.
Washington State passed Referendum 71 in 2009, extending most of the rights of marriage to same-sex couples who applied to be recognized as domestic partners. Earlier this year, Governor Christine Gregoire signed a measure passed by the legislature erasing any gender requirements for marriage. Washington was one of three states whose legislature passed such laws in 2012. Only New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed his state’s law.
If Washington, Maryland and Maine’s votes are certified, the number of states extending marriage to same-sex couples will jump from six to nine, plus the District of Columbia. Currently 11 percent or 35,258,372 Americans live in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal. If approval is certified in all three, these states will expand that number to 49,244,887, or 15.6 percent of Americans.
On the same night, Washington State voters also approved a measure that would legalize recreational use of marijuana in that state, according to the Associated Press.