Signature costs for ballot initiatives increased in 2022

In 2022, ballot initiative campaigns spent $118.29 million to collect signatures for 29 initiatives in 12 states. The average cost-per-required-signature (CPRS) in 2022 was $12.70, an increase from $8.09 in 2020, $6.52 in 2018, and $6.93 in 2016.

On November 8, voters in 37 states will decide 132 statewide ballot measures, of which, 30 were placed on the ballot through successful initiative petition drives.

Note: Ballotpedia was unable to calculate signature gathering costs for South Dakota Amendment D due to how expenditures are reported on the state’s campaign finance website. Ballotpedia contacted the sponsoring campaign, South Dakotans Decide Healthcare. As this data is unavailable, South Dakota Amendment D is excluded from the report.

An initiative is a proposed law that people collect signatures for to put on the ballot for a statewide vote. Signature requirements such as the number of signatures required, maximum circulation periods, and other requirements vary by state.

Campaigns spend funds to collect signatures, hire signature-gathering companies, utilize unpaid volunteers, or use a mix of both. States have different initiative signature requirements and different population sizes, resulting in varied signature drive costs across states.

Ballotpedia uses two methods to measure the cost of a citizen-initiated ballot measure petition drive:

  • Total cost: the total money spent on gathering the required signatures to put an initiative on the ballot
  • Cost-per-required signature (CPRS): the total cost divided by the number of signatures required to qualify the measure for the ballot

CPRS measures the costs based on the number of signatures required. CPRS allows for comparisons of signature costs within a state and between states. If a campaign spends $1 million on its petition drive and the state’s signature requirement is 100,000, the CPRS is $10.00. In other words, the campaign spent $10.00 per required signature to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

The number of citizen initiatives that qualified for the even-numbered year ballot decreased 61% from 2016 to 2022, with 76 initiatives appearing on the ballot in 2016 and 30 initiatives appearing on the ballot in 2022. While there was a decrease in the number of initiatives appearing on the ballot, the cumulative cost of signature gathering increased over this period.

The average total petition drive cost for 2022 was $4.08 million, an increase of 297% compared to 2016, when the average petition drive cost was $1.03 million. In 2020, the average total petition cost was $2.06 million. In 2018, the average total cost was $1.13 million.

In 2022, the measure with the highest CPRS was Arizona Proposition 209. Sponsors of the measure, Arizonans Fed Up With Failing Healthcare, hired Fieldworks LLC to collect signatures for the petition to qualify this measure for the ballot. A total of $6.05 million was spent to collect the 237,645 valid signatures required to put this measure before voters, resulting in a total cost per required signature (CPRS) of $25.44.

Ballotpedia identified 15 petition companies used by initiative campaigns in 2022. Advanced Micro Targeting was the most-hired petition company leading to successful signature drives in 2022, with campaigns from five states (Arizona, Arkansas, Nebraska, Nevada, and North Dakota) qualifying initiatives for the ballot using the company’s signature-gathering services.