The 2023 ballots count is set. Here’s what you need to know.

Welcome to the Monday, September 18, Brew. 

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

  1. The 2023 ballots count is set. Here’s what you need to know.
  2. State governors issue 85 executive orders from Aug. 28-Sept. 10

The 2023 ballots count is set. Here’s what you need to know.

With the Nov. 7 general election approaching, we now have a final tally of how many ballot measures voters either have or soon will decide for this year: 41 measures in eight states. 

Those measures cover a wide range of topics, from abortion and marijuana initiatives in Ohio to proposed statutes on electric utilities in Maine. Voters in three states already decided five of those measures, and voters in six states will decide on the remaining 36 between now and Nov. 18.

Got questions? We’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know about this year’s ballot measures.

This year has the most certified ballot measures for an odd-numbered year since 2007

In 2007, 45 measures made it to the ballot. The 41 measures this year are the most for an odd-numbered year since then. Measures in Maine, Ohio, and Texas, in particular, contributed to the above-average number. From 2009 to 2021, odd-numbered years had an average of 32 statewide measures.

The odd year with the most state ballot measures was 2003, when voters decided on 66 measures. The year with the fewest was 2017, with 27.

2023 is an above-average year for citizen initiatives

The 41 certified measures this year include six citizen initiatives—four in Maine and two in Ohio. The other 35 are measures that legislators put on the ballot. 

This year’s six citizen initiatives are the most since 2011, when there were 12. The numbers declined after that peak partly due to legal changes in California and Mississippi. 

In 2011, California passed a bill requiring that citizen initiatives 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 in the state, which is four. 

Most changes proposed to the Texas Constitution since 2007

Voters in Texas will decide on 14 constitutional amendments on Nov. 7. That’s the most for an odd-numbered year since 2007, when voters decided on 17 constitutional amendments. It’s also higher than the average of eight constitutional amendments that appeared on the ballot between 2011 and 2021.

Some of this year’s proposed changes are:

  1. Proposition 1, which would establish a right to farming, ranching, timber production, horticulture, and wildlife management;
  2. Proposition 3, which would prohibit the Legislature from enacting a wealth or net worth tax in the future; and
  3. 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. This is the most measures during an odd-numbered year since 1999, when there were 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, proposed in response to Question 3, 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 and entities or companies with partial (5% or more) foreign government ownership from making expenditures to influence a candidate 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.

A fourth initiative on the ballot, Question 4, is 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

Three measures made it to the Ohio ballot in 2023, one more than the state’s odd-numbered-year average.

One of those measures—a legislative constitutional amendment to increase the voter approval threshold for new constitutional amendments to 60%—was on the ballot in August. Voters rejected it 57%-43%.

In November, Ohio voters will decide two initiatives that are part of multi-year ballot measure trends and national debates: abortion and marijuana. 

The abortion-related initiative is a constitutional amendment that would provide a state constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” including decisions about abortion and contraception. 

The other initiative—Ohio Issue 2—is a state statute that would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and older.

This year’s above-average number of certified ballot measures comes despite a sizable change in Washington law

From 2013 to 2021, an average of five, or 17%, of an odd-numbered year’s ballot measures were non-binding questions in Washington. In 2023, that number is zero.

That’s because earlier this year the Washington Legislature passed a bill repealing mandatory advisory votes on bills to increase taxes. This change had the support of most state legislative Democrats, with 96.5% voting in favor. Only 1.7% of Republicans voted in favor. 

Six different election dates in 2023

Most, but not all, of this year’s statewide ballot measures are on the ballot on Nov. 7. Here’s a rundown of the election dates for 2023, including those that have already passed:

  • March 7: voters in Oklahoma rejected a citizen initiative to legalize recreational marijuana.
  • April 4: voters in Wisconsin approved two constitutional amendments and one non-binding question.
  • Aug. 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.
  • Oct. 14: voters in Louisiana will decide on four constitutional amendments, including Amendment 1, which is related to private financing of election administration, and Amendment 2, regarding state constitutional rights on places of worship.
  • Nov. 7: voters in five states—Colorado, Maine, New York, Ohio, and Texas—will decide 26 ballot measures.
  • Nov. 18: voters in Louisiana will decide on an additional four constitutional amendments. This is the last statewide ballot measure election of 2023.  

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State governors issue 85 executive orders from Aug. 28-Sept. 10 

Now, let’s shift gears and take a look at which governors have issued the most and least executive orders this past week and throughout the year.

From Aug. 28-Sept. 10, governors issued 85 executive orders. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) led the field with 45, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), and Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) with five each. Governors in 31 states issued no executive orders.

The last two weeks account for 7% of the year-to-date total of 1,163. 

As of Sept. 10, Georgia leads the year with 399 orders issued since Jan. 1, followed by Florida with 174 and New Mexico with 132.

Georgia and Florida lead the country in the number of executive orders issued for two reasons: in Georgia, unlike most states, the governor uses executive orders to appoint and reappoint members of state boards and judges. In Florida, also unlike most states, the governor uses executive orders for state attorney executive assignments.

In New Mexico, most of the 132 orders issued this year have dealt with emergency funds for natural disasters.

Governors in 16 states have issued fewer than five orders since the start of the year, and those in three states—Alaska, Mississippi, and Texas—have yet to issue any orders. 

On average, governors have issued 32 executive orders per week so far this year, more than the 2022 weekly average of 30.

In states with a Republican trifecta, governors issued 736 orders, while governors in states with a Democratic trifecta issued 312. A trifecta is when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers. In states where neither party holds trifecta control, governors issued 115 orders.

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