Initiative signature requirements increase in 13 states and decrease in five states based on 2018 elections

Voter turnout in the 2018 elections caused a change in the number of signatures required for initiatives and veto referendums in 18 of the 26 states that allow at least one form of statewide initiative or referendum.
 
There are 13 states with initiative signature requirements based on midterm gubernatorial or secretary of state elections. In each of these states, turnout was higher than in 2014 and signature requirements increased.
 
In these 13 states, the signature requirement increases ranged from 3.2 percent in Maine to 70.3 percent in California, where the signature requirements are higher than they’ve ever been in the state’s 106 years of direct democracy. These increased requirements will apply to the 2020 and 2022 election cycles. In three states—Colorado, Maine, and Ohio—initiatives can go on the ballot in odd-numbered years as well, so these requirements will also apply to initiatives for the 2019 and 2021 ballots.
 
There are four states with signature requirements based on turnout at general elections. In each of those states, turnout was lower than in 2016 and signature requirements decreased. In these four states, the signature requirement decreases ranged from 11.3 percent in Alaska to 20.7 percent in Wyoming. These decreased requirements will apply to the 2020 election cycle, after which the requirements will be reset based on turnout in that election.
 
Six states base initiative signature requirements on odd-year or presidential year gubernatorial elections. The 2018 elections had no effect on the signature requirements in those states; the requirements will be determined by the 2020 elections.
 
Three states base signature requirements on voter registration or population. Idaho is one of these and was the fifth state to have a decrease in initiative signature requirements based on 2018 elections. Signature requirements in Idaho are based on voter registration totals at the time of the last general election. The other two states that base requirements on voter registration or population, Nebraska and North Dakota, calculate the requirement at certain stages of the initiative process rather than at the time of a previous election.
 
Signature requirements are determined differently depending on the state. The majority of states with citizen-initiated measures—16—base signature requirements on ballots cast for gubernatorial candidates in the preceding gubernatorial election. Four states base signature requirements on total ballots cast in the preceding general election. Of the remaining states, two states base requirements on voters for presidential candidates within the state, two states base requirements on registered voters, one state bases requirements on votes cast for secretary of state candidates, and one state bases requirements on the state population.
 




About the author

Josh Altic

Josh Altic is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at josh.altic@ballotpedia.org

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