Ohio could become the 12th state to require more than a simple majority to approve a constitutional amendment

Welcome to the Thursday, July 13, Brew. 

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

  1. Eleven states require more than a simple majority to approve a constitutional amendment. Ohio could become the 12th.
  2. Listen to our mid-year report on the state of election administration legislation in the latest episode of On the Ballot
  3. No direct initiatives to appear on the ballot in Washington for the fourth year in a row

Eleven states require more than a simple majority to approve a constitutional amendment. Ohio could become the 12th. 

On Aug. 8, Ohio voters will decide Issue 1, a state constitutional amendment that would establish a 60% vote requirement to approve future state constitutional amendments. If approved, Ohio would become the 12th state to require more than a simple majority to approve a constitutional amendment. 

Some states set higher vote thresholds to approve ballot measures on specific topics. In Arizona, for example, any ballot measure to approve a tax requires 60% of voters to vote in favor of the measure. Washington requires 60% of all voters casting a ballot to approve initiatives or referendums related to lotteries. Utah, meanwhile, requires a two-thirds (66.67%) vote to approve any initiatives concerning hunting.

Constitutional amendments require voter approval in 49 out of 50 states. Only Delaware does not.

Of the 49 states that require voter approval for constitutional amendments, 11 require an explicit number above a simple majority (a “supermajority”) or other election vote threshold to approve an amendment:

  • New Hampshire has the highest vote requirement at two-thirds (66.67%).
  • Florida has the second-highest vote requirement at 60%.
  • In Colorado, a 55% vote of voters is required to amend the state constitution.
  • In Hawaii, Minnesota, and Wyoming, a simple majority of the total ballots cast in an election is required, meaning a blank vote has the same effect as a ‘no’ vote in these three states.
  • The other five states have other requirements, such as requiring a simple majority vote on the ballot measure itself and a certain percentage of voter turnout or ballots cast.

Thirty-eight states, including Ohio, require a simple majority to approve a constitutional amendment. 

Additionally, Oregon requires that a ballot measure proposing a supermajority vote on ballot measures be passed by the same vote threshold, such as 60%, as the measure proposes.

If approved, Issue 1 would make Ohio the 12th state to require more than a simple majority of voters to approve constitutional amendments.

Issue 1 would also make Ohio tie with Florida as the state with the highest voter approval requirement (60%) to pass citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The ballot initiative process allows citizens to propose measures and collect signatures to place their proposals on the ballot. Twenty-six states allow citizen initiatives. Eighteen of those states, including Ohio, allow for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. 

New Hampshire, which has the highest voter approval requirement overall for constitutional amendments, doesn’t allow citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The state allows legislatively-referred constitutional amendments—amendments that state legislators refer to the ballot for voters to decide.

All states but Delaware provide for legislative-referred constitutional amendments. In 33 states, legislatively-referred constitutional amendments require a supermajority in one or both state legislative chambers to be placed on the ballot. 

In Ohio, a 60 percent vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session is required to refer a legislatively referred constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 60 votes in the Ohio House of Representatives and 20 votes in the Ohio Senate, assuming no vacancies. 

Issue 1—a legislatively referred constitutional amendment—passed 62-37 in the House and 26-7 in the Senate. Sixty-two House Republicans supported the amendment and five opposed it, while all Senate Republicans backed the proposal. All House and Senate Democrats voted against it.

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Listen to our mid-year report on the state of election administration legislation in the latest episode of On the Ballot

In this week’s episode of On the Ballot, Ballotpedia Staff Writers Joe Greaney and Ethan Rice give our host, Victoria Rose, a roundup of the state of election administration legislation in the first half of this year. 

Joe and Ethan are two of the chief architects of our State of Election Administration Legislation 2023 report, our analysis of the election-related state legislation we tracked from Jan. 1 through May 31, 2023.

In their conversation, Joe and Ethan discuss some of the key findings from the report. They offer their insights into why we’re seeing an increase in the number of election-related bills introduced and enacted this year when compared to last year. They also discuss how many bills each party has sponsored so far in 2023 and how divided governments stack up vs. trifectas in terms of enacting and sponsoring election-related legislation. They also explore why Texas and New York are in a league of their own when it comes to introducing election-related bills.

The duo also explore some of the other state policy ideas covered in the mid-year report, including ranked choice voting, private funding bans, election audits, photo ID requirements for voting, and non-citizen voting.

If you’re interested in learning more, click on the link below! Episodes of On the Ballot come out Thursday afternoons, so if you’re reading this on the morning of July 13, you’ve still got time to subscribe to On the Ballot on your favorite podcast app before this week’s episode comes out!

And if you’re looking for a resource to quickly track election-related legislation, check out our Election Administration Legislation Tracker. The tracker covers thousands of election-related bills in state legislatures, organizes them by topic, and provides neutral expert analysis from Ballotpedia’s election administration researchers.

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No direct initiatives to appear on the ballot in Washington for the fourth year in a row

None of the 70 campaigns seeking to place direct initiatives on the ballot in Washington state met the July 7 signature filing deadline. This will be the fourth consecutive year in which no such initiatives will appear on the ballot.

For an Initiative to the People  (ITP)—the name of direct ballot initiatives in Washington—to qualify for the ballot, proponents would have needed to submit 324,516 valid signatures. Five sponsors submitted a total of 70 ITPs concerning a range of topics, including taxes, firearms, and schools. None of the campaigns submitted signatures by the deadline. 

ITPs last appeared on the ballot in the 2018 general election, when voters decided three measures on carbon fees, local grocery taxes, and gun ownership requirements. The 2020 election was the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot lacked an ITP.

Washington citizens may initiate legislation as either a direct initiative—an ITP—or an indirect initiative—called an Initiative to the Legislature (ITL). Direct initiatives differ from indirect ones in that legislators consider an indirect initiative before the proposal goes to voters. Direct initiatives are placed directly on the ballot after signatures are verified.

The signature deadline for 2023 ITLs was Dec. 30, 2022. Fourteen sponsors filed a total of 151 ITLs. None of the campaigns submitted signatures by the deadline. The most recent ITL to reach the ballot was Initiative 976 in 2019. The measure limited annual registration renewal fees for certain vehicles.  Voters approved the initiative, but the Washington Supreme Court later invalidated it. 

While no ITPs or ITLs will appear on the ballot this year, other measures may yet qualify. Washington citizens have the power to repeal legislation through veto referendums, and two veto referendums have been filed against Senate Bill 5599. The measure, which the Washington State Legislature passed in April, would exempt certain homeless youth shelters and host homes from parental notification requirements for minors seeking or receiving gender-related treatment or reproductive health services.

Signatures for veto referendums must be filed 90 days after the legislative session during which the targeted bill was passed adjourns. For bills passed during the 2023 legislative session, the signature deadline is July 22.

In Washington, successful veto referendum petitions suspend the targeted law until the veto referendum is placed on the ballot and voted on in an election. The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in Washington in 2020.

The Washington Legislature may also refer constitutional amendments to the ballot with a two-thirds (66.67%) vote, though it passed no constitutional amendments or other referrals during its 2023 session.

Additionally, Washington voters will no longer see advisory questions on their ballot after Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed Senate Bill 5082 on April 20, which abolished automatic advisory vote questions.

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