Voters in three states to decide on changes to the ballot initiative process this year

Welcome to the Thursday, March 3, Brew. 

By: David Luchs

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Voters will decide on legislative proposals adding restrictions to ballot initiative processes in Arizona, Arkansas, and South Dakota in 2022
  2. An update on the Tuesday elections
  3. Ohio U.S. House candidate filing deadline passes

Voters will decide on legislative proposals adding restrictions to ballot initiative processes in Arizona, Arkansas, and South Dakota in 2022

Voters in at least three states will decide legislative proposals to change citizen-initiated ballot measure processes this year. Legislatures in Arizona, Arkansas, and South Dakota have passed constitutional amendments on ballot initiatives. All three states are Republican trifectas. Here’s a quick recap of how they got to the ballot.

  • The first vote on an initiative-related constitutional amendment will be on June 7, 2022, in South Dakota. Amendment C would require a three-fifths vote at an election to approve ballot measures designed to increase taxes or fees or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years following enactment. The state Legislature passed the constitutional amendment in March 2021. Senate and House Democrats opposed the proposal. Republicans were divided 69 to 24.
  • In Arizona, voters will decide two constitutional amendments at the general election in November. Republicans in the legislature backed two proposals that would make changes to the ballot initiative process. Legislative Democrats opposed both.
    • One would allow legislators to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives if any portion has been declared unconstitutional or invalid by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, the Legislature cannot amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives due to Proposition 105 (1998), also known as the Voter Protection Act, with an exception for changes that further a measure’s purpose and receive a three-fourths vote in each legislative chamber. 
    • The other amendment in Arizona would add a provision to the state constitution that requires citizen-initiated ballot measures to embrace a single subject. Based on a 2017 state Supreme Court ruling, the state constitution’s existing single-subject rule applies to legislative bills but not citizen-initiated measures.
  • Finally, the Arkansas State Legislature passed a constitutional amendment requiring a three-fifths vote for voters to approve citizen-initiated measures and constitutional amendments. Voters will decide the issue on November 8. In the Arkansas House, 72 Republicans and two Democrats approved the amendment, and one Republican and 17 Democrats opposed it. In the Senate, the vote was divided along party lines, with Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against.

The four measures that Arizona, Arkansas, and South Dakota legislatures put on the 2022 ballot were among 231 legislative proposals related to state and local ballot measures and recall processes that Ballotpedia tracked in 2021. Thirty-six proposals were approved, including bills that have already been signed into law. 

2021 had the most ballot measure-related legislative proposals nationwide since 2011 when there were 263 such bills proposed and 14 approved. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 178.3 legislative proposals related to state and local ballot measures were introduced each year. On average, 23.9 of those measures were approved.

Seventy statewide measures have been certified for the ballot in 31 states so far this year, five more than the average number certified at this point in other even-numbered years from 2010 to 2020. 

Here’s an update on other recent ballot measure activity:

From 2010 to 2020, the average number of statewide ballot measures certified in an even-numbered year was 164. 

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An update on the Tuesday elections

Results are still coming in from Tuesday night’s elections. While the primaries in Texas were the main event, our team was also watching elections in Connecticut, Michigan, and Vermont. Here are some highlights, with vote totals as of 1:30 p.m. Central Time on March 2:

  1. Abbott wins re-nomination: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott won the Republican nomination for a third term Tuesday over seven challengers. Abbott had 66.5% of the primary vote. Former state party chairman Allen West followed with 12.3%, while former state Sen. Don Huffines had 11.9%. No other candidate had more than 5%.
  2. Paxton and Bush advance to runoff: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and challenger George P. Bush, the current public lands commissioner, advanced to a runoff as Paxton seeks a third term. Paxton had 42.7% of the vote to Bush’s 22.8%. A candidate needed at least 50% of the vote to win outright. The runoff between Paxton and Bush will take place May 24.
  3. U.S. House incumbent may head to runoff: U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar appeared headed to a potential May 24 runoff against challenger Jessica Cisneros in the Democratic primary for Texas’ 28th congressional district. Cuellar led Cisneros 48.5% to 46.8%. A candidate needs at least 50% of the vote to win the primary outright. Cisneros earlier ran against Cuellar in the 2018 primary, which Cuellar won 51.8% to 48.2%.
  4. Democrats pick nominee for safe U.S. House district: Greg Casar, a former member of the Austin City Council, won the Democratic nomination for the 35th congressional district outright over three others, winning 61.7% of the vote. Casar, who has endorsements from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), is expected to win the November general election; three race ratings agencies list this district as Safe Democratic.
  5. Vermont voters approve group of municipal measures: Voters in Vermont’s capital of Montpelier approved all 10 municipal measures on Tuesday’s ballot. The measures included four municipal bonds totaling $27.4 million, five measures approving planned expenditures, and one tax increase. The narrowest vote of approval was 54-46 on a $2 million property purchase bond. Montpelier, with a population of 8,074 as of the 2020 census, is the smallest state capital nationwide.

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Ohio U.S. House candidate filing deadline passes

The filing deadline for candidates running for U.S. House in Ohio is tomorrow, March 4. Candidates running for statewide office and state legislative seats had until Feb. 2 to file.

All 15 of Ohio’s seats in the U.S. House will be up for election this year. Ohio’s 15 seats in the round of apportionment following the 2020 census is a one-seat decline from the 16 the state was apportioned in 2010 and is the smallest number of seats apportioned to Ohio in any round of redistricting since 1820.

Ohio’s primaries for U.S. House and other offices will take place May 3. Ohio’s U.S. House candidate filing deadline is the ninth U.S. House filing deadline this year. Ohio is one of 21 states with a U.S. House filing deadline taking place in March.

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