2023 is on track for more ballot measures than previous odd years

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Friday, June 16, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott and Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Thirty-one statewide ballot measures have been certified for the ballot in 2023
  2. Oklahoma approves nation’s first religious charter school
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many state legislatures define a quorum as two-thirds of legislators?

Thirty-one statewide ballot measures have been certified for the ballot in 2023

This year, voters have decided four statewide ballot measures in Oklahoma and Wisconsin. But there are many more to come before the end of the year. Let’s review the latest developments.

Thirty-one statewide measures have been certified for the ballot in eight states for elections in 2023. That’s 12 more than the average number—19—certified at this point in other odd-numbered years from 2011 to 2021. The number certified is also the highest number of any of those years. 

Last week, four new measures were certified for the 2023 ballot, all in Louisiana:

Signatures were verified for three indirect initiatives in Maine. The initiatives are now before legislators, who have until the end of the current legislative session—June 21—to approve, reject, or take no action on the proposals (the latter two options send the initiatives to the November 2023 ballot):

In Ohio, an initiative to legalize marijuana was certified to the Legislature, which had four months to act on it. Because the Legislature took no action, a second 90-day signature-gathering period began on May 3.

Including this year’s certified measures (which could still increase), an average of 32 measures have been placed on the ballot each year since 2013. Voters have approved an average of about 20 measures each year since 2013.   

On Aug. 8, Ohio voters will decide a measure that would raise the number of votes needed to approve constitutional amendments. You can read our recent coverage of that measure, and the politics behind it, here.

For 2024 ballot measures, 40 have been certified in 20 states. An average of 39 were certified at this point from 2010 to 2022.

Two new measures were certified for the 2024 ballot last week:

One initiative submitted signatures and is pending verification in Michigan:

Click below to learn more about this year’s ballot measures. Click here to learn about 2024 ballot measures.

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Oklahoma approves nation’s first religious charter school 

ICYMI in Hall Pass, our weekly newsletter on school board politics and education policy, here’s a condensed version of a story from this week’s edition about charter schools.

On June 5, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted 5-3 to approve an application for plans to open the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School—the nation’s first religious charter school. The Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa submitted the application for the school, which would offer online instruction to up to 500 students throughout the state.

Oklahoma is one of 46 states that allows charter schools.

The decision to approve the Archdiocese’s application has divided charter school advocates, including Oklahoma’s current Republican attorney general and his Republican predecessor. 

Last December, then-Attorney General John O’Connor (R) issued an advisory opinion arguing that, in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) rulings, a state law prohibiting religiously affiliated charter schools likely violates the First Amendment. On Feb. 23, current Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond (R) rescinded O’Connor’s opinion, saying, “The Opinion as issued by my predecessor misuses the concept of religious liberty by employing it as a means to justify state-funded religion.” Drummond defeated O’Connor in the June 28, 2022, Republican primary. 

O’Connor based his advisory opinion on three SCOTUS rulings—Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer (2016), Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020), and Carson v. Makin (2022). In each of those cases, SCOTUS ruled that states could not restrict private religious organizations from receiving generally available taxpayer funds. Drummond said the SCOTUS cases all involved private schools not charter schools.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) said, “This is a win for religious liberty and education freedom in our great state, and I am encouraged by these efforts to give parents more options when it comes to their child’s education.”

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit that lobbies for and supports charter schools, opposed the decision to approve St. Isidore of Seville: “All charter schools are public schools, and as such must be non-sectarian.”

Following the decision, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that it and Americans United for Church and State (AU) planned to sue in response to the Board’s decision. AU President Rachel Laser said, “State and federal law are clear: Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and open to all students.”

According to Notre Dame law professor Nicole Stelle Garnett, who has advised the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, the constitutionality of religious charter schools depends on whether courts consider charter schools state actors. 

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, charter school enrollment was estimated at 3,695,769 students—or about 7.5% of all public school students—in the 2020-2021 school year. Only Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont do not have laws authorizing charter schools.

Click here to read the full story. Click below to subscribe to Hall Pass. New editions hit your inbox every Wednesday afternoon, so subscribe to keep up to date with the biggest education stories from around the country. 

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#FridayTrivia: How many state legislatures define a quorum as two-thirds of legislators?

In the Wednesday Brew, we brought you a story from Oregon, where a Republican-led legislative walkout has entered its sixth week. That’s the longest in Oregon’s history. State legislative walkouts are not unique to Oregon, but they are more common there than in other states because of how the state defines a quorum—the minimum number of members who must be present in order to conduct official business.

In the majority of states, a quorum is defined as being at least half of all members, meaning the majority party often has a quorum by itself. But in Oregon, a quorum is at least two-thirds of all members.

Including Oregon, how many states have a two-thirds quorum? 

  1. 11
  2. 2
  3. 13
  4. 4