An early look at certified 2024 measures

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

  1. California and New York certify measures for 2024 related to fast-food working conditions, Equal Protection Clause
  2. Tallying error in Oakland, Calif., led to inaccurate election results 
  3. 275 election-related bills introduced in state legislatures last week

California and New York certify measures for 2024 related to fast-food working conditions, Equal Protection Clause

Last week, we updated you on the certified statewide measures voters will decide in 2023 (there are five as of this writing). But did you know states are already certifying measures for 2024? On Jan. 24, California and New York certified new measures that voters will decide in 2024. That brings the total number of 2024 certified measures to eight. At this time in 2019, states had certified six measures for the 2020 ballot. At this time in 2021, states had certified five for the 2022 ballot. 

Let’s take a look at these measures. 

On Jan. 24, the California secretary of state announced that a veto referendum filed to repeal Assembly Bill 257 (AB 257) had qualified for the November 2024 ballot. 

AB 257 enacts the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (FAST Recovery Act), which authorizes the creation of a 10-member fast-food council within the Department of Industrial Relations. Members include fast-food restaurant franchisors, franchisees, employees, advocates for employees, and a representative from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. The law would authorize the labor commissioner and the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement to enforce the council’s adopted regulations once at least 10,000 fast-food restaurant employees had signed a petition approving the council’s creation. 

AB 257 also authorizes the council to adopt a minimum wage for fast-food employees not to exceed $22 per hour in 2023 with annual adjustments.

The law was set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. However, on Dec. 29, 2022, Save Local Restaurants, which had submitted more than 1 million signatures for a veto referendum to overturn AB 257 on Dec. 5, filed a lawsuit asking the court to stop the state from enforcing the law until the signature verification process was complete. On Jan. 13, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang granted a preliminary injunction keeping the bill from taking effect until the state verifies the signatures. In California, the number of signatures required for a veto referendum is 623,212 (5% of the votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election). 

On Jan. 24, the secretary of state reported that the final random sample count contained at least 712,568 valid signatures.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association PAC, and International Franchise Association Franchising PAC have endorsed the campaign to repeal AB 257. The top campaign donors include Chipotle Mexican Grill, In-N-Out Burgers, Starbucks, Yum! Brands, and Wing Stop.

SEIU California State Council, California Employment Lawyers Association, California Labor Federation, and Gig Workers Rising oppose the referendum.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB 257 into law in September 2022. 

In California, 402 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2022. Two hundred thirty-one ballot measures were approved and 171 were defeated.

New York
Now, let’s turn to the Empire State.

On Jan. 24, the New York Legislature passed a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the denial of rights to an individual based on ethnicity, age, sex, gender identity, reproductive status, and other characteristics. The amendment will go to voters in 2024.  

The amendment first passed both chambers of the legislature in July 2022, and passed both chambers again in the current legislative session. For a constitutional amendment to go on the ballot in New York it must pass each chamber during two successive legislative sessions. New York is one of 13 states with a two-session requirement for legislatively referred constitutional amendments (in four of those states, an amendment that receives a supermajority in the first round can bypass the second). 

The amendment would add language to the Equal Protection Clause in the state constitution. The Equal Protection Clause currently prohibits the denial of rights to an individual based on race, color, creed, or religion.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) said: “The amendment we’re passing today attempts to achieve what America has failed to do for generations: guarantee constitutional protections for individuals on the basis of sex, orientation, or background from implicit or explicit discrimination. We’re also enshrining a constitutional right to abortion and contraception to help ensure that our rights remain untouched by the federal court’s recent action.”

Assembly member David DiPietro (R), who opposed the amendment, said: “The passage of the equality amendment would result in the further erosion of religious liberty for New Yorkers whose faith, traditions teach that abortion, homosexuality and/or transgenderism are immoral and could subject many faith-based charities and schools to catastrophic liability.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization held that the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Following that decision, voters in California, Michigan, and Vermont approved amendments establishing a right to abortion. Voters in Kansas and Kentucky rejected amendments that said state constitutions cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion. There were a total of six ballot measures addressing abortion in 2022—the most for a single year.

Three of the states that passed measures in 2022—California, Michigan, and Vermont—are the only states where the state constitution explicitly provides the right to an abortion. Four states—Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia—have passed constitutional amendments that say state constitutions cannot be interpreted to establish a state constitutional right to abortion.

From 1985 to 2022, 30 constitutional amendments have gone on the ballot in New York. Twenty-one (70%) of them were approved and nine (30%) were defeated.

Read more about 2024 ballot measures at the link below. 

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Tallying error in Oakland, Calif., led to inaccurate election results 

Ranked-choice voting (RCV) is a system that has attracted growing attention over the last few years. Broadly, RCV allows voters to rank candidates by preference on their ballots. Alaska and Maine have adopted RCV for various federal and state-level elections, and 10 states have jurisdictions that have implemented RCV at the local level. In 2024, voters in Nevada will decide a measure that would establish RCV for congressional and state-level general elections.

California is one of those states where RCV is used in some local elections. Recently, a tallying error in a California school board race that relied on RCV led election officials to certify the wrong winning candidate.

On Dec. 28, 2022, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters acknowledged in a press release that the initial certified results were incorrect for the school director race in District 4 of the Oakland Unified School District in California.

Nick Resnick was certified as the winner of the race in November. However, election officials later told Mike Hutchinson, who originally finished third, that he won: “Without being cynical, I now believe in holiday miracles. So it was very shocking to wake up this morning and receive a phone call at 10:30 a.m. from the Alameda County head of elections informing me that I had actually won the election.” 

Hutchinson filed a petition in Alameda County Superior Court on Dec. 29, 2022, asking a judge to overrule the prior certification and name him the official winner.

According to the press release from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters:

The ROV learned that its RCV tally system was not configured properly for the November 2022 General Election. It should have been configured to advance ballots to the next ranking immediately when no candidate was selected for a particular round. … After reviewing the election data and applying the correct configuration, the ROV learned that only one outcome was affected: Oakland School Director, District 4, for the Oakland Unified School District. No other result for any RCV election in any jurisdiction was changed.

California Ranked Choice Voting Coalition and FairVote, two organizations that supported the use of ranked-choice voting in California, discovered the error while auditing the election results. They found that county officials used the wrong method to tally votes that did not include a first choice candidate.

Rob Richie, the CEO of FairVote, said, “This unfortunate error was due to a combination of human folly and correctable practices for transparency. Importantly, it wasn’t about RCV nor the accuracy of the underlying Dominion software used by Alameda County and San Francisco.”

Litigation is ongoing. Resnick was officially sworn into the position of District 4 Oakland school director on Jan. 9, 2023.

On Jan. 10, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to undertake a recount of several races that used RCV in November 2022, including the Oakland mayoral election. In that race, Sheng Thao defeated Loren Taylor 50.3% to 49.7%. 

Click here to read arguments for and against RCV. To read more about this story, click the link below. 

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275 election-related bills introduced in state legislatures  

Here’s a quick update on last week’s state legislative activity related to election administration.

Since Jan. 20, 275 election-related bills have been introduced (or saw pre-committee action). That’s a 16.9 percent increase from last week’s total of 236 bills. 

These 275 bills represent 27.2 percent of the 1,013 bills we are currently tracking in 2023. Seventy of these bills are from states with Democratic trifectas, 135 are from states with Republican trifectas, and 70 are from states with a divided government.

The bar chart below compares recent activity on a week-to-week basis over the last eight weeks. 

If you want to learn more about election-related legislation, click the link below and subscribe to our weekly election legislation tracking digest. You’ll receive weekly updates on election-related activity across the states, including information about noteworthy bills, the number of bills acted on within a given week, and which states have seen the highest concentration of legislative activity. You can also use our interactive Election Administration Legislation Tracker to find and read election-related bills in your state. 

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