In 2023, 41 statewide ballot measures are certified for the ballot in eight states—the highest number for an odd-numbered year since 2007. Measures in Maine, Ohio, and Texas, in particular, contributed to the above-average number of state ballot measures in 2023.
From 2009 to 2021, odd-numbered years had an average of 32 statewide measures. Voters decided on 39 statewide ballot measures at the last odd-year election in 2021, which also surpassed the average but was two less than this year’s count.
An above-average year for citizen-initiated ballot measures
The 41 statewide ballot measures in 2023 include six citizen-initiated ballot measures. The other 35 are measures that legislators voted to place on the ballot. There are four citizen-initiated ballot measures in Maine and two in Ohio.
Five of these initiatives are initiated state statutes. One is an initiated constitutional amendment—Ohio Issue 1, which would provide a state constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including decisions about abortion and contraception.
The previous peak for citizen-initiated measures was in 2011 when there were 12. However, the numbers declined after that in part due to legal changes in California and Mississippi. In 2011, a bill was passed in California to require that citizen-initiated measures must appear on general election ballots, which happen in even-numbered years. In Mississippi, the initiative process has been inactive since 2020 when the state Supreme Court found that the signature distribution requirement, which is based on five congressional districts, exceeded the actual number of districts, which is four.
Most changes proposed to the Texas Constitution since 2007
Voters in Texas will decide on 14 constitutional amendments on November 7, 2023. From 2011 to 2021, an average of eight constitutional amendments appeared on the ballot. Sixteen years ago, in 2007, voters decided on 17 constitutional amendments in Texas. Some of this year’s proposed changes are:
- Proposition 1, which would establish a right to farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management in the Texas Constitution;
- Proposition 3, which would prohibit the Legislature from enacting a wealth or net worth tax in the future; and
- Proposition 14, which would create the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund—a trust fund for the creation and improvement of state parks.
Maine has the highest number of odd-numbered year ballot measures since 1999
In Maine, voters will decide on eight ballot measures on Nov. 7, including four citizen-initiated statutes and four constitutional amendments. The last time there were at least eight measure during an odd-numbered year in Maine was 1999, when there was nine.
At least three of the initiatives relate to recent or current debates about electric utilities and transmission corridors in the state. Question 3 would replace investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities with the Pine Tree Power Company, a quasi-public electric transmission and distribution firm with an elected board. Question 1 was proposed in response to Question 3, as well as similar legislation. Question 1 would require voter approval for certain entities, such as the Pine Tree Power Company, to incur more than $1.0 billion in debt. Question 2 would prohibit foreign governments, as well as entities or companies with partial (5% or more) foreign government ownership, from making expenditures to include a candidate election or ballot measure election. In 2021, the issue of foreign spending in ballot measure campaigns was discussed with an initiative to prohibit the construction of an electric transmission line project from Canada through Maine. Hydro-Québec, a government-owned enterprise of Québec, spent $19.9 million to oppose that initiative.
The fourth initiative on the ballot is Question 4, known as a right-to-repair law, which would allow motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities to have access to vehicle on-board diagnostic systems.
Ohio to decide on abortion and marijuana in Nov. 2023
Ohio has three measures on the ballot in 2023, which is one above the odd-numbered-year average for the state. One of those ballot measures, a legislative constitutional amendment, was decided in August. Voters rejected that amendment to increase the voter approval threshold for new constitutional amendments to 60%, among other changes. In November, voters will decide on two initiatives related to multi-year ballot measure trends and national debates—abortion and marijuana. While the abortion-related initiative is a constitutional amendment, the marijuana legalization initiative is a statute.
Above-average number in 2023 despite a sizable change in Washington
Since 2013, an average of five, or 17%, of an odd-numbered year’s ballot measures were non-binding questions in Washington. In 2023, there are zero. Earlier in 2023, the Legislature passed a bill repealing provisions of an initiative that voters approved in 2007 to require non-binding questions on tax increases. There are no longer mandatory advisory votes on tax increases in Washington. This change had support from legislative Democrats, with 96.5% voting in favor, compared to 1.7% of Republicans.
41 measures across six election dates in 2023
Most of the statewide ballot measures (26) are on the ballot on Nov. 7, 2023. Between March and August, voters in three states—Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin—decided on five ballot measures. The following are the election dates for state ballot measures in 2023:
- On March 7, voters in Oklahoma rejected a citizen-initiated measure to legalize recreational marijuana.
- On April 4, voters in Wisconsin approved two constitutional amendments and one non-binding question.
- On August 8, voters in Ohio rejected Issue 1, which would have required a 60% vote to approve a constitutional amendment; increased the signature distribution requirement for initiated amendments; and eliminated the signature cure period for initiated amendments.
- The next election is on October 14, when voters in Louisiana will decide on four constitutional amendments, including Amendment 1, which is related to private financing of election administration, and Amendment 2, which is related to state constitutional rights regarding places of worship.
- On November 7, most of the ballot measures, 26, will be decided in Colorado, Maine, New York, Ohio, and Texas.
- On November 18, which is the last statewide ballot measure election of 2023, voters in Louisiana will decide on an additional four constitutional amendments.