DemDaily: Moving Measures in the States

June 20, 2019

Ballot initiatives have become an integral part of our electoral process - as an effective tool for advancing direct democracy and as an avenue for checking legislative powers.

Ballot Initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment

Types of Ballot Initiatives
Direct Initiative: a measure is put directly to a popular vote after being submitted by a petition.
Indirect initiative: a measure is first referred to the legislature, and then only put to a popular vote if not enacted by the legislature.
Referendum allows voters to approve or repeal an act of their state's legislature through a petition to demand a popular vote on the law.

Constitutional Amendments may be referred to a statewide ballot through these methods or through a
constitutional convention, where allowable by state.

The concept of ballot initiatives was developed by the Populist Party in the 1890s, which was strongest throughout the South and the West, and where initiatives are still most prevalent today.

CLICK for info on your state (Ballotpedia)

The first official system of initiatives and referendums, however, originated in Oregon in 1902 as an attempt to expand individual voting rights and the ability to hold legislators accountable. The "Oregon System" spread to other states, and became one of the signature reforms of the Progressive Era, utilized to recall elected officials and stage referendums on controversial new legislation.

Major wedge or publicly controversial initiatives are usually held in on-election (even) years when congressional and more electoral seats are up, and when ballot measures can be used to help drive higher voter turnout to the polls.

In 2018 there were 167 statewide initiatives on the ballot in 38 states, covering issues from marijuana, redistricting, taxes, healthcare and energy, to victims' rights, minimum wage and abortion.

Twenty-six states and DC allow citizen-initiated statutes or amendments, or veto or legislative referenda. That includes Arizona and Florida, which have commissions with the authority to place statewide measures on the ballot.

On average, there are 170 statewide measures on the ballot in even years and hundreds more at the local level.

2019 Initiatives
Four of the 26 states, Colorado, Maine, Ohio, and Washington allow for ballot initiatives or veto referendums in any odd-numbered years, as does Mississippi when the governor's seat is up. Several more often refer statewide measures to the ballot via the legislature.

Over the last decade, the average total number for odd years is 33 initiatives on the ballot in an average of eight states. In 2019, 21 statewide ballot measures have so far been certified for the ballot in seven states.

2019 Statewide Ballot Measures

Key: LRCA: Legislatively-Referred Constitutional Amendment * LRSS: Legislatively-Referred State Statute * ITL: Initiatives to the Legislature.  All measures will be voted on November 5, 2019, except for Louisiana, which will vote on October 12, 2019.

ColoradoLRSSProposition CCState Spending and Finance, Transportation and Education
LRSSProposition DDGambling and Taxes
LouisianaLRCALouisiana New Orleans Affordable Housing Property Tax Exemption AmendmentTaxes
LRCALouisiana Property Tax Exemption for Stored Materials Routed for Outer Continental Shelf AmendmentTaxes
LRCALouisiana Board of Tax Appeals Jurisdiction Amendment Government
LRCALouisiana Education Excellence Fund Uses AmendmentEducation
MaineLRCAAllow for Alternative Initiative Signatures for Persons with Disabilities AmendmentDirect Democracy
PennsylvaniaLRCAMarcy's Law AmendmentLaw
TexasLRCATexas Prohibit State Income Tax on Individuals Amendment Taxes
LRCATexas Transfer of Care of Law Enforcement Animals AmendmentAnimals
LRCATexas Cancer Prevention and Research Institute Bonds AmendmentBonds
LRCATexas Increase Distributions to School Fund Amendment Budgets
LRCATexas Allowed to Serve as Multiple Municipal Judges Amendment Municipal
LRCATexas Precious Metals in Depositories Exempt from Property Tax Amendment Taxes
LRCATexas Sales Tax on Sporting Goods Dedicated to Parks, Wildlife, and Historical Agencies AmendmentBudgets
LRCATexas Flood Infrastructure Fund Amendment Budgets
LRCATexas Water Development Board Bonds AmendmentBonds
LRCATexas Temporary Property Tax Exemption for Disaster Areas AmendmentTaxes
WashingtonLRCAWashington Government Continuation Legislation for Catastrophic Incidents AmendmentLegislature
ITLWashington Initiative 976, Limits on Motor Vehicle Taxes and Fees MeasureTaxes and Transportation

The Cost
Ballot initiatives have also become a part of the political industry, with full-fledged media and ground campaigns which average around $1.1 million in cost.

According to Ballotpedia, a total of $1.185 billion was raised for or against 2018 measures, with $1.16 billion in expenditures. The 68 citizen-initiated measures accounted for 83% of the campaign finance activity.

As of June 19, 2019, 36 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2020 ballot in 17 states.

Make change where you can at the ballot box!

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources:  Ballotpedia

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