Reviewing nearly $200 billion in approved bond measures since 2000

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Voters have approved $199.3 billion in bond measures since 2000

Our ballot measures team just finished some really fascinating research on statewide bond measures over the past 20 years. One of their findings was that bond measure approval rates were the highest in Democratic trifectas, rather than Republican trifectas or states with divided governments. Another interesting fact was that two-thirds of the total bond measures were put on the ballot by Democratic-controlled legislatures. Let’s take a dive into the data.

But first, let’s start with the basics.

Bond measures are put on the ballot to authorize a state or district to take on a certain amount of bond debt. Some states have voter approval requirements for statewide bond debt, while others do not. We tracked 244 statewide bond measures on the ballot from 2000 to 2020 asking voters to authorize up to $254.63 billion in bond debt in 22 states.

The bulk of these bonds were placed on the ballot by state legislatures. Eleven citizen initiative petitions placed statewide bond measures on the ballot from 2000 to 2020, and state legislatures referred the other 233 measures to the ballot.

Now, let’s dive into the findings.

  • Of the 244 bond measures, 214 measures authorizing a total of $199.281 billion were approved and 30 measures proposing a total of $55.353 billion were defeated.
  • An average of 12 statewide bond measures were voted on per year, with the most measures (26) voted on in 2002, and no statewide bond measures voted on in 2011.
  • The state with the largest amount of bond debt on the ballot was California with $182.2 billion, $152.4 billion of which was approved.
  • Ninety-five statewide bond measures were on the ballot in states with Democratic trifectas, and 20 statewide bond measures were on the ballot in states with Republican trifectas.
  • Seventy-nine bond measures were on the ballot in states with Democrat-controlled legislatures but Republican governors, and nine were on the ballot in states with Republican-controlled legislatures but Democratic governors.
  • The three states with the most measures on the ballot were Maine (60), Rhode Island (49), and New Mexico (40).

The chart below shows the approval rating for statewide bond measures since 2000. To read the full report, click the link below.

Read on

Tennessee voters to decide right-to-work amendment in 2022 

Speaking of ballot measures, here’s an update from Tennessee. Voters will decide a constitutional amendment in 2022 that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership as a condition for employment. This type of policy is known as right-to-work. Tennessee enacted a right-to-work statute in 1947.

In Tennessee, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a vote in each chamber of the Tennessee State Legislature in two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, there are two different vote requirements depending on the session. During the first legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber.

Last session, the amendment passed 24-5 in the state Senate and 68-22 in the state House in 2020. This session, the state Senate passed the measure in March by a vote of 24-7. Twenty-four Republicans voted in favor and one Republican joined the chamber’s six Democrats in voting against. The state House approved the amendment 67-24 on April 29 with 67 Republicans voting in favor and 23 Democrats and one Republican voting against.  

Twenty-seven states have enacted right-to-work statutes. Nine states have adopted right-to-work constitutional amendments. Alabama and Virginia were the last states to decide right-to-work amendments in 2016. Alabama voters approved Amendment 8, 70% to 30%, and Virginia voters rejected Question 1, 54% to 46%. Missouri voters repealed the state’s right-to-work statute via a veto referendum in 2018.

Tennessee’s right-to-work amendment will be the first one certified for the ballot in the state since 2014. Tennessee voters approved all 11 statewide ballot measures decided between 1995 and 2014.

Read on 

Don’t miss our state supreme court partisanship briefing

Here’s a preview of our upcoming briefing on state supreme court partisanship. 

One of the most common questions Ballotpedia staff hear is, “How do I learn more about my judges?” Our latest report helps answer that question by looking at partisanship at each state’s highest court, and we’re excited to share it with you during the briefing. 

Join us tomorrow, May 12, at 11:00 AM Central Time as our state courts expert Samuel Postell and I go over the findings of our partisanship report. We’ll answer questions such as:

  • What is the Ballotpedia Courts Study?
  • How does partisanship inform the way that justices rule in cases before the courts of last resort?
  • Who is the majority on your court of last resort? Who is the minority?

I hope you’ll join us for this exclusive discussion. Can’t make it during the scheduled time? We’ll email you a recording of our conversation so you don’t miss a thing. Click the link below to snag your spot!

Register here




About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.