Results for Ballotpedia’s top 15 ballot measures to watch in 2021

A total of 39 statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2021 ballot in nine states. Fourteen were approved, and 10 were defeated. Ballotpedia also covered 156 local ballot measures.

Below are Ballotpedia’s top 15 most notable ballot measures on the Nov. 2 ballot: nine statewide measures and six local ballot measures.

Statewide ballot measures

A total of 39 statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2021 ballot in nine states. Voters in six states decided 24 of the measures on Nov. 2.

Maine Question 1

Maine voters approved Question 1 by 59% to 41% according to unofficial election night results. Question 1 was designed to stop the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission line project that would transmit around 1,200 megawatts from hydroelectric plants in Quebec to electric utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. Construction of NECEC began after the project received a presidential permit on January 15, 2021. The ballot initiative prohibited the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region, retroactive to September 16, 2020, thus prohibiting Segment 1 of NECEC. Segment 1 was permitted to begin construction on May 13, 2021.

According to campaign finance reports covering through September 30, Question 1 had seen more than $71.82 million raised between supporters and opponents. According to the Bangor Daily News, Question 1 is the most expensive ballot measure in Maine history, and second most expensive political election after the $200-million U.S. Senate race in 2020. Sponsors of the measure hired Revolution Field Strategies to collect signatures for the petition to qualify this measure for the ballot. A total of $2,048,794.68 was spent to collect the 63,067 valid signatures required to put this measure before voters, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $32.49.

On Nov. 3, NECEC Transmission, LLC, and Avangrid Networks, Inc., filed a lawsuit in the Cumberland County Superior Court. NECEC and Avangrid argued that Question 1 violated the separation of powers and the sanctity of contracts. They also argued that it was unconstitutional because the companies had a vested right to construct and complete the project in good faith.

Colorado Proposition 119

Colorado voters defeated Proposition 119 by 54% to 46% according to unofficial results. Proposition 119 would have created the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program, also known as the LEAP Program, and would have increased the marijuana retail sales tax incrementally from 15% to 20% to partially fund the program.

The program would have provided out-of-school services consisting of but not be limited to the following:

  • tutoring in core subject areas,
  • instruction in English and foreign languages,
  • career and technical training,
  • emotional and physical therapy,
  • mental health services,
  • special support for students with special needs, and
  • mentoring.

According to campaign finance reports that covered through October 13, 2021, Learning Opportunities for Colorado’s Kids, leaders of the Yes on Prop 119 campaign, reported $2.05 million in contributions and $1.76 million in expenditures. The top two donors were Gary Community Investment Company, which gave $1.45 million, and Ready Colorado, which gave $625,000. Three committees registered to oppose the initiative: No on Prop 119, Coloradans Against School Vouchers, and Cannabis Community for Fairness and Safety. Together, the committees reported raising $17,557 in cash and in-kind contributions. The committees reported $15,629 in cash expenditures.

Measures that can go on the ballot during odd years in Colorado are limited to topics that concern taxes or state fiscal matters arising under TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (Section 20 of Article X of the Colorado Constitution). This requirement was added to state statute in 1994. Two other initiatives were on Colorado’s 2021 ballot on Nov. 2. Both were defeated.

New York Proposal 2

New York voters approved Proposal 2 by 69% to 31%. Proposal 2 added a right to clean water, clean air, and a healthful environment to the New York Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Pennsylvania adopted the country’s first environmental rights amendment in 1971. Like New York Proposal 2, the amendment established a state constitutional right to clean air and clean water. The Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment also contained a provision declaring the state’s natural resources to be “common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.” As of 2021, at least six state constitutions included language on environmental rights. The states were Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Maine Question 3

Maine voters approved Question 3 by 61% to 39%. Question 3 amended Maine Constitution’s Declaration of Rights to declare that individuals have a “natural, inherent and unalienable right to food,” including:

  1. “the right to save and exchange seeds” and
  2. “the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being[.]”

Question 3 does provide a right to harvest, produce, or acquire food in cases in which an individual commits trespassing, theft, poaching, or “other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources.”

Maine was the first state to put a right to food into its constitution.

Texas Proposition 6

Texas voters approved Proposition 6 by 88% to 12%. Proposition 6 amended the Texas Constitution to state that residents of nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, or state-supported living centers have a right to designate an essential caregiver that may not be prohibited from visiting the resident. It also authorized the Texas State Legislature to pass guidelines for facilities to establish visitation policies and procedures for essential caregivers.

The amendment was introduced in response to restrictions put in place in March 2020 as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. On March 15, 2020, Texas Health and Human Services Commission ordered nursing facilities to prohibit non-essential visitors from accessing facilities. At that time, the order applied to 1,222 licensed and regulated nursing facilities serving about 90,000 residents and an additional 2,000 assisted living facilities in Texas.

New York Proposal 1

New York voters defeated Proposal 1 by 56% to 44%. The constitutional amendment would have:

  • (a) changed the vote thresholds for adopting redistricting plans when one political party controls both legislative chambers;
  • (b) required that incarcerated persons be counted at the place of their last residence for redistricting;
  • (c) required the state to count residents, including people who are residents but not citizens, should the federal census fail to do so;
  • (d) removed the block-on-border requirement for Senate districts;
  • (e) capped the number of state senators at 63; and
  • (f) moved up the timeline for redistricting and repealed inoperative language.

In the Senate during the 2021 session, Democrats supported the amendment, while Republicans voted against the proposal. In the Assembly, 99 Democrats, along with one member of the Independence Party, voted to refer the amendment. Republicans, along with seven Democrats, voted against the measure.

New York Proposal 3

New York voters defeated Proposal 3 by 58% to 42%. The amendment would have removed the requirement that persons must register to vote at least ten days before an election. This change would have allowed the New York State Legislature to pass a statute for same-day voter registration. Same-day voter registration enables voters to register and vote at the same time. Same-day registration is sometimes referred to as Election Day registration. New York is one of 30 states that do not provide for same-day voter registration. The other 20 states and D.C. allow same-day voter registration.

The constitutional amendment was passed in 2019 and 2021. In both years, the votes were largely along party lines, with Democrats supporting the same-day voter registration amendment and Republicans opposing it.

New York Proposal 4

New York voters defeated Proposal 4 by 56% to 44%. The amendment would have authorized the New York State Legislature to pass a statute for no-excuse absentee voting, meaning any registered voter could request and vote with an absentee ballot. The New York Constitution requires voters to be absent from their home county, ill, or physically disabled to vote with an absentee ballot. New York was one of 16 states that required voters to provide an excuse to receive an absentee ballot. Of the remaining 34 states, 27 provided for no-excuse absentee voting and seven states used mail-in voting, meaning every registered voter received a mail-in ballot.

The constitutional amendment was passed in 2019 and 2021. Legislative Democrats supported the constitutional amendment during both sessions. In 2019, 75.8% of legislative Republicans voted to refer the constitutional amendment. In 2021, 31.8% of legislative Republicans voted to refer the constitutional amendment.

New Jersey Public Question 1

New Jersey voters defeated Public Question 1 by a vote of 57% to 43%. The amendment would have allowed wagering on college sports competitions. The state constitution permits sports betting except on games held in N.J. and on games featuring N.J.-based college teams. Therefore, the ballot measure would have expanded sports betting to include all college sport competitions.

As of July 2021, sports betting was legal, or laws to legalize had been approved, in 30 states and D.C. In New Jersey, sports betting was legalized through Public Question 1 in 2011 but, due to federal law, was not implemented until after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Murphy v. NCAA. While Public Question 1 (2011) permitted sports betting in New Jersey, the constitutional amendment prohibited wagering on college games that take place in New Jersey or games that involve N.J.-based college teams.

Of the 30 states with sports betting, 17 allowed betting on in-state college sports. In the Mid-Atlantic, Maryland and Pennsylvania permitted betting on in-state college sports. Besides New Jersey, in-state college sports betting was not permitted in the neighboring states of Delaware and New York.

Local ballot measures

In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering all local measures in California and all statewide ballot measures. Click here to see the scope of Ballotpedia local ballot measure coverage by year.

Minneapolis Question 2

Minneapolis voters defeated Question 2 by a vote of 56% to 44%. The initiative would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety (DPS). The DPS would have been responsible for “a comprehensive public health approach to safety,” including the employment of licensed police officers if needed to fulfill the department’s responsibilities. A Commissioner of Public Safety would have led the DPS and would have been nominated by the mayor and approved by the city council. The ballot initiative would have also provided for the fire police to be housed with the DPS. Question 2 would have removed the minimum funding requirement for police (0.0017 per resident) from the Minneapolis Charter.

The Yes 4 Minneapolis committee was registered to support the ballot initiative. According to campaign finance reports that covered through July 27, Yes 4 Minneapolis raised $1.48 million, including $500,000 from the Open Society Policy Center. The All of Mpls committee was registered to oppose the ballot initiative. The committee raised $109,465.

Austin Proposition A

Austin voters defeated Proposition A by a vote of 69% to 31%. Proposition A would have:

  • established minimum police staffing of at least two police officers for every 1,000 city residents;
  • added an additional 40 hours of police training each year on topics such as active shooter scenarios, critical thinking, and defensive tactics; and
  • provided police with additional compensation for being proficient in non-English languages, enrolling in cadet mentoring programs, and being recognized for honorable conduct.

Detroit Proposal R

Detroit voters approved Proposal R by a vote of 80% to 20%. The measure advises the city to create a city reparations committee tasked with making recommendations for housing and economic development programs for Black Detroit residents. On June 15, 2021, the Detroit City Council unanimously passed a resolution that “establishes a reparations process to, within the next year, develop short, medium and long term recommendations to specifically address the creation of generational wealth and to boost economic mobility and opportunity in the black community.” The committee approved by Proposal R will be a part of the recommendation process.

Detroit Proposal E

Detroit voters approved Proposal E by a vote of 61% to 39%. The initiative decriminalized the possession and therapeutic use of entheogenic plants, including psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, and iboga, and declared that police shall treat the possession and use of entheogenic plants by adults among the lowest law enforcement priorities.

Proposal E was written with the term entheogenic plants. In 1979, five academics, including Carl A. P. Ruck and Daniel Staples of Boston University, proposed the term entheogens to describe “states of shamanic and ecstatic possession induced by mind-altering drugs.” “In a strict sense,” wrote the academics, “only those vision-producing drugs that can be shown to have figured in shamanic or religious rites would be designated entheogens, but in a looser sense, the term could also be applied to other drugs, both natural and artificial, that induce alterations of consciousness similar to those documented for ritual ingestion of traditional entheogens.” Ruck et al. described the term hallucinogen as having a biased, negative meaning: “The verb ‘hallucinate,’ however, immediately imposes a value judgment upon the nature of the altered perceptions, for it means ‘to be deceived or entertain false notions.’”

At least 10 local governments, including Ann Arbor in Michigan, had passed laws that decriminalized psilocybin or changed law enforcement priorities regarding psilocybin. Two of these laws passed as ballot measures in Denver, Colorado, and Washington, D.C.

Columbus Issue 7

Columbus voters defeated Issue 7 by a vote of 87% to 13%. The measure would have created several funds related to energy, allocated a total of $87 million to the funds, and allowed the initiative sponsors to designate recipients of certain funds to then distribute:

  • Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Fund – $10 million;
  • Clean Energy Education and Training Fund – $10 million;
  • Minority Business Enterprise Clean Energy Development Fund – $10 million; and
  • Columbus Clean Energy Partnership Fund – $57 million – for subsidies to electricity customers.

Denver Initiated Ordinance 303

Denver voters defeated Initiated Ordinance 303 by 57% to 43%. Proponents referred to the initiative as Let’s Do Better. It would have required the city to enforce unauthorized camping and authorized the city to establish up to four authorized camping locations on public property with lighting, running water, and restroom facilities to support the homeless population of the city.

This measure was put on the ballot through a citizen initiative petition proposed by Garrett Flicker, chair of the Denver Republican Party.

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