Twice as many ranked-choice voting bills introduced in state legislatures this year than in 2022

Welcome to the Tuesday, August 8, Brew. 

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

  1. State legislators introduced twice as many ranked-choice voting bills this year than last
  2. Ohio voters decide Issue 1 today—here’s a roundup of our coverage
  3. Tennessee representatives expelled in April re-elected in Aug. 3 special elections

State legislators introduced twice as many ranked-choice voting bills this year than last

We’ve touched on various elements of election policy legislation in the Brew this year (see here, here, and here, for some examples). Let’s catch up with one area that’s getting a lot of attention—ranked-choice voting (RCV). 

This year, state legislators have introduced 106 ranked-choice voting (RCV) bills compared to 44 in 2022. Seventy-four of the bills introduced this year support the use of RCV in at least some elections, compared to 33 in 2022. Seventeen bills introduced in 2023 oppose the use of RCV, compared to four bills in 2022. The remaining bills amend existing RCV laws or commission studies of RCV.

Among the bills introduced this year supporting RCV, 37 require the use of RCV in certain elections, and 39 allow RCV to be used in certain elections. Of these bills, Republicans sponsored five, and Democrats sponsored 57. Six bills had bipartisan support, and six had sponsors other than Democrats or Republicans, such as committees, third parties, or non-partisan legislators. Two bills supporting RCV have been enacted this year, the same number of enacted bills as in 2022. 

  • Oregon lawmakers referred the Oregon Ranked-Choice Voting for Federal and State Elections Measure to the state’s voters through passage of HB2004 on June 25, 2023. The measure will appear on the ballot in Oregon at the general election on Nov. 5, 2024. If approved, the measure would establish ranked-choice voting for elections to federal and state offices, including the president, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer, and commissioner of labor and industries. It would also authorize any local government or local service district, such as cities, counties, school districts, and municipalities, to implement ranked choice voting for their elections.
  • Vermont enacted H0508 on May 12. This bill approves an amendment to the charter of the City of Burlington that expands the use of RCV to include mayoral, school commissioner, and ward election officer elections. Burlington already uses RCV to elect its city council.

Of the introduced bills this year opposing RCV, 13 prohibit RCV for some or all elections, and four bills repeal existing RCV statutes. Of these bills, Republicans sponsored 16, and one bill was sponsored by a committee. States enacted three bills opposing RCV this year, while one piece of legislation opposing RCV was enacted in 2022. 

  • Idaho enacted H0179 on March 28, a bill prohibiting RCV or instant runoff voting for any election or candidate nomination in the state. 
  • Montana enacted HB598 on April 27. This bill prohibits the use of ranked-choice voting in federal, state, or local elections. 
  • South Dakota enacted SB55 on March 27. This bill prohibits ranked-choice voting at any level of government.

Bills concerning municipal election procedures make up the majority of RCV bills considered this year. Of the total RCV bills introduced in 2023, 51 deal with local elections in some way, compared to 23 addressing federal elections and 20 focusing on state elections. 

Lawmakers introduced 21 bills that would require the use of RCV in at least some federal elections. Of these 21 bills, eight require RCV only in primaries for federal offices, and one only requires RCV for special elections. Democrats sponsored 19 of the 21 bills, one had bipartisan sponsorship, and one was introduced without sponsorship.

Legislators introduced 17 bills that would require the use of RCV in at least some state elections. Of these bills, three bills require RCV just for primaries, and three other bills only require RCV for either special or runoff elections. Democrats sponsored 15 of the 17 bills, the remaining two were introduced without sponsorship.

Our comprehensive Election Administration Legislation Tracker is the basis for the data and analysis in this report. This user-friendly database covers thousands of election-related bills in state legislatures and organizes them by topic with neutral, expert analysis from Ballotpedia’s election administration researchers.

To see a full list of ranked-choice voting bills in our database since 2022, click the link below. 

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Ohio voters decide Issue 1 today—here’s a roundup of our coverage 

Today, Ohio voters will go to the polls to decide Issue 1, a state constitutional amendment that would establish a 60% vote requirement to approve future state constitutional amendments. Much has been written about this measure, including in this newsletter. 

As we wait for the polls to close, here’s the backstory on this measure and a roundup of our coverage. 

Here are five key elements of the measure:

  1. How did it get on the ballot?
  2. How many states require supermajority approval?
  3. How do signature requirement rules compare across the country?
  4. How many proposed amendments has Ohio seen in the past 100 years?
  5. How much money has been spent for and against?

How did Issue 1 get on the ballot? 

Issue 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, meaning the Ohio Legislature drafted a bill and then voted to place it on the ballot. In this case, Issue 1 started off as Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2). A 60% vote is required during one legislative session for the Legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, amounting to a minimum of 60 votes in the Ohio House of Representatives and 20 votes in the Ohio Senate. 

  • On April 19, the Senate voted 26-7 to approve SJR 2. The upper chamber’s 26 Republicans supported SJR 2, and the seven Democrats opposed it.
  • On May 10, the House voted 62-37 to approve SJR 2. Of the House Republicans, 62 supported and five opposed SJR 2, and the chamber’s 37 Democrats opposed it.

SJR 2 called for a special election on Aug. 8. However, in January, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed House Bill 458 (HB458), a mostly Republican-backed bill that eliminated August special elections. On June 16, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Republican majority, in a 4-3 decision, ruled that the General Assembly can set a special election date for Aug. 8.

The process of putting SJR 2 on the ballot played out as abortion rights supporters were gathering signatures for the Ohio Right to Make Reproductive Decisions Including Abortion Initiative, which was certified for the November ballot on July 25. That amendment says that, “Every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.” 

If the voters approve the supermajority vote amendment on Aug. 8, the 60% threshold would apply to the abortion initiative. 

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

In this story, we looked at the vote threshold in the 49 states that require voter approval for constitutional amendments (Delaware is the only state that doesn’t require voters to approve amendments). 

Ohio could become the only state to require campaigns to collect signatures from every county

In this story, we looked at another change Issue 1 would make to ballot measures in Ohio—the signature distribution requirement. Currently, Ohio requires citizen-initiative campaigns for constitutional amendments to collect signatures equal to 5% of the votes cast for governor in 44 of the state’s 88 counties. Under Issue 1, the distribution requirement would increase to 5% of the votes cast at the last gubernatorial election in each of the state’s 88 counties—a change that would make ballot measure campaigns harder. 

Sixteen of the 26 states—including Ohio—that allow citizen initiatives have signature distribution requirements.

Ohio Issue 1 is the 270th proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution since the 1912 Constitutional Convention

In this story, we looked into the history of proposed constitutional amendments in Ohio and compared their success rates through the decades.

Issue 1 is the 270th proposed amendment to the state’s constitution since the 1912 constitutional convention. Voters approved 161 (59.85%) of the proposed amendments between then and 2022, and rejected 108 (40.15%).

How much money has been spent for and against?

In this story, we looked at how much money campaigns supporting and opposing Issue 1 have raised. Overall, campaigns on all sides have raised a combined $32.25 million—with more than 80% of contributions coming from out-of-state donors.  

Issue 1 is the most expensive ballot measure in Ohio since 2017, when voters decided on Issue 2, which had $77.41 million in contributions. Issue 2 was related to state agencies and prescription drug prices. 

Click here to learn about the top donors supporting and opposing the measure. 

We’ll bring you updates and analysis in the coming days about the election’s outcome, so look forward to that in your inbox. 

Read all about Issue 1 at the link below. 

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Tennessee representatives expelled in April re-elected in Aug. 3 special elections

On Aug. 3 (yes, a Thursday—Tennessee is one of a handful of states to commonly hold Thursday elections), voters went to the polls to fill three vacancies in the Tennessee House of Representatives for Districts 3, 52, and 86. The elections for 52 and 86 were vacant because the incumbents, Reps. Justin Jones (D) and Justin Pearson (D), were expelled on April 6. The two lawmakers led chants on the House floor during protests in support of gun control laws. A vote to expel a third member, Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), failed.

Although Jones and Pearson were removed from office, they were back on the ballot in the special elections because local county officials voted to reinstate them.

Pearson ran against Jeff Johnston (Independent), winning 93.4% of the vote. Jones ran against Laura Nelson (R), winning 75.9% of the vote. 

You can read more about elected officials expelled from state legislatures here. We’ve captured 79 such cases between 1813 and 2023 in our database.

Timothy Hill (R) defeated Lori Love (D) 74.5% to 25.5%. Love completed our Candidate Connection survey in the special election for  District 3. The former incumbent, Scotty Campbell (R), resigned from the Tennessee House following an ethics investigation that found he had violated workplace discrimination and harassment policies. 

So far this year, 48 state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 18 states.

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