This decade featured the lowest number of California ballot propositions in the state’s history of direct democracy

Between 2010 and 2019, there were 69 statewide ballot measures in California, which means this decade featured the smallest number of measures since voters adopted the initiative process in 1911. The number of citizen-initiated measures, however, was 51—the third-highest number per decade of the previous 11 decades. Therefore, the decrease in measures on the ballot is due to the state legislature passing fewer constitutional amendments, referred statutes, and general obligation bonds. After peaking at 142 ballot measures in the 1970s, the number of ballot measures decreased each decade in California until reaching 69 in the 2010s. The average decade featured 116 ballot propositions, of which 39 were citizen-initiated.
 
In 1912, the first citizen-initiated measures were on the ballot in California. Since 1912, there have been 1,271 measures put before California voters. Of those 1,271 measures, 428—34 percent—were put on the ballot through citizen petitions; either through the initiative process or the veto referendum process.
 
Overall, the approval rate for citizen initiatives from 1912 through 2019 was 36 percent. The approval rate for all ballot measures, including citizen-initiated measures and legislative referrals, was 57 percent.
 
The next two elections, 2020 and 2022, will require the largest number of signatures for citizen-initiated measures in the state’s history. To get an initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot, 997,139 valid signatures are required. To get an initiated statute or veto referendum on the ballot, 623,212 valid signatures are required. Due to turnout at California’s 2018 gubernatorial election, which determines the number of signatures required for the two successive general elections, signature requirements increased by 70.3 percent. The percentage increase was the second-largest in the state’s 106 years of statewide direct democracy. The largest increase was 140.3 percent and resulted from turnout in the 1914 general election, which was the first gubernatorial election that followed women gaining the right to vote in California.
 
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About the author

Ryan Byrne

Ryan Byrne is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at ryan.byrne@ballotpedia.org

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