Presenting Ballotpedia’s year-end ballot measure report

Welcome to the Tuesday, December 20, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Presenting Ballotpedia’s year-end ballot measure report
  2. Eleven candidates running for mayor of Chicago in 2023
  3. Campaign behind California oil and gas veto referendum submits nearly 1 million signatures

Presenting Ballotpedia’s year-end ballot measure report

Doug here. I always look forward to the end of the year, not just for the holidays, but also to see all of the insights my peers have had over the past year. Today, I wanted to share one of those reports our ballot measures team just released.

Their year-end report covers the 140 statewide ballot measures voters decided across 38 states this year. It covers topics ranging from approval rates to petition costs to readability, and much more.

Here are some highlights: 

Voters approved 96 of the 140 ballot questions this year (69%). Forty-four, or 31%, were defeated.

There were four overarching types of ballot measures this year, based on where those measures originated and how they operate:

Lower number of citizen-initiated measures: Voters decided fewer citizen-initiated measures this year—30—than at any point since 2000. 

Since 2000, there have been an average of 61 citizen-initiated measures on the ballot in even-numbered years. 2022 is the second cycle in a row where that number has been below average.

Higher initiative signature costs: citizen-initiated measure campaigns spent a combined $118.3 million on signature gathering, averaging out to around $4.1 million per campaign. 

By comparison, this is almost double the average in 2020, with $2.1 million spent per campaign, and roughly four times the average costs of around $1 million per campaign in 2018 and 2016.

The majority of petition drive spending was in California, where six measures appeared on the ballot. These campaigns needed to collect between 623,000 and 1 million valid signatures and spent a collective $71.6 million on petition drives, accounting for 61% of the nationwide total.

California’s Proposition 27, which would have legalized online and mobile sports betting, topped the list this year, spending $18.8 million on its petition drive, accounting for 16% of the nationwide total. Voters rejected the measure 82% to 18%.

Graduate-school reading level for ballot measures:

This year, the average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for ballot titles of all 140 statewide measures was 19, corresponding to a third-year graduate school reading level. 

The Flesch-Kincaid metric analyzes the number of words, sentences, and syllables to arrive at a grade level. It does not measure the complexity of ideas.

Iowa had the lowest average ballot title grade at seven, corresponding to a seventh-grade reading level. Kentucky had the highest at 44, corresponding to 44 years of formal U.S. education.

On average, citizen-initiated measures received an average title grade of 17 years of education and referred measures had an average grade of 20 years.

Use the link below to view the full report:

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Eleven candidates running for mayor of Chicago in 2023

Let’s take an early peak at one of the major elections of 2023 – Chicago’s mayoral election. 

Elven candidates are running in the Feb. 28 general election, including incumbent Lori Lightfoot (D), U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D), and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D), who have received the most media attention so far.

First elected in 2019, Lightfoot has campaigned on her record as mayor, saying she “led the city through the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic, with tough, fair leadership — all while keeping or overdelivering on campaign promises.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) and U.S. Reps. Danny Davis (D), Robin Kelly (D), and Bobby Rush (D) endorsed Lightfoot.

Garcia was first elected to the U.S. House in 2018, after serving as a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, the Illinois Senate, and the Chicago City Council. Garcia said, “I’m the only candidate in the race with experience of serving the city at every level of government.”

Five state legislators, two city aldermen, and three railroad unions endorsed Garcia.

Johnson was elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2018 after working as a public school teacher and union organizer. Johnson says he is “the only candidate who has been a leader in our communities in the fights for fully funded public schools, affordable housing, green jobs and access to mental health care.”

U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez (D), two city aldermen, the Chicago Teachers Union, and the Service Employees International Union endorsed Johnson.

Chicago’s mayoral election is officially nonpartisan, meaning all 11 candidates will appear on the ballot without party labels. But candidates typically affiliate with one of the two major parties. 

If no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote on Feb. 23, the top-two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on April 4.

In the 2019 general election, Lightfoot finished first in a 14-candidate field with 17.5% of the vote. Lightfoot defeated Toni Preckwinkle (D) 74% to 26% in the runoff.

With 11 candidates on the ballot in 2023, a runoff election is, once again, likely. 

Other candidates include state Rep. Kambium Buckner (D), Frederick Collins (R), Ja’Mal Green (D), city Alderwoman Sophia King (D), Johnny Logalbo (I), Roderick Sawyer (D), former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas (D), and Willie Wilson (I).

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Campaign behind a California oil and gas veto referendum submits nearly 1 million signatures

On Dec. 13, the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA), leader of the Stop the Energy Shutdown campaign, announced that the campaign to place a veto referendum repealing oil and gas regulations on the 2024 ballot had collected more than 978,000 signatures, 623,212 of which must be valid to qualify for the ballot.

The referendum would repeal Senate Bill 1137 (SB 1137), which prohibits new oil and gas wells within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals. It also requires companies to monitor leaks and emissions and install detection alarms.

Announcing its signature submission, CIPA said, “if implemented, SB 1137 would increase CA’s already high gas prices by decreasing our energy supply and replacing it with expensive imported foreign oil that tankers must transport from countries that do not uphold the same environmental or labor standards.”

The Sierra Club of California supports SB 1137 and opposes the veto referendum. Director Brandon Dawson said, “California frontline communities have been fighting for protections from toxic oil and gas pollution for decades, and the setbacks mandated by SB 1137 will go a long way towards preserving those communities’ air quality and ecosystems.”

CIPA—along with Chevron and Aera Energy—jointly sponsored two local veto referendums this year in Ventura County on county ordinances regulating oil and gas exploration and production. The referendums asked whether voters wanted to adopt the county’s regulations. Voters defeated both measures with about 52% of the vote, meaning the ordinances were not adopted.

Veto referendums differ from initiated statutes or legislatively-referred constitutional amendments. The latter two measures appear before the voters who decide whether to make them law. With veto referendums, the legislature passes a law, which voters then decide whether to let go into effect.

The California Senate voted 35-0 in favor of SB 1137. The state Assembly voted 46-24 in favor. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed the bill on Sept. 16.

If the veto referendum qualifies for the ballot, SB 1137 would be put on hold, meaning it would not go into effect unless voters approve it in 2024.

Californians have voted on 50 veto referendums since 1912, upholding laws 21 times (42%) and repealing laws 29 times (58%). This year, in the most recent statewide veto referendum, voters upheld a law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products, 63% to 37%.

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