How many votes does it take to pass a ballot measure? Californians will weigh in next year

Welcome to the Wednesday, September 20, Brew. 

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

  1. California legislators send two constitutional amendment on vote thresholds to November 2024 ballot
  2. Four months to go until the Iowa caucuses
  3. Both candidates in competitive Virginia House race complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

California legislators send two constitutional amendments on vote thresholds to November 2024 ballot

On Sept. 14, the California Legislature passed two constitutional amendments that would change vote thresholds required to pass certain ballot measures. Both amendments will appear on the November  2024 ballot.

ACA 1 would lower the vote threshold from two-thirds to 55% to approve local special taxes that would fund housing projects and public infrastructure. Voters set the two-thirds requirement in 1978 with Prop. 13. This threshold previously also applied to school bonds, but voters decreased the threshold for those measures with Prop. 39 in 2000.

ACA 13 would require initiatives establishing supermajority vote thresholds to pass by the same vote requirement they propose. For example, an initiative setting a three-fifths vote threshold for new constitutional amendments would require at least three-fifths of the vote to pass. Oregon is the only other state with such a process in place, which voters adopted in 1998.

These amendments come amid a trend of states proposing measures that would increase the votes needed to pass future measures.

Ohio voters recently rejected a measure, 57% to 43%, that would have increased the vote threshold to 60% for constitutional amendments. In 2022, voters in Arkansas and South Dakota rejected similar measures, while voters in Arizona approved one.

Both ACA 1 and ACA 13 passed through the Legislature largely along party lines. All but two of the Democrats present when the vote occurred approved both proposals. All Republicans who were present—along with two Democrats—voted against it.

There is already one other tax-related constitutional amendment set for California’s November 2024 ballot. This proposal would redefine all state and local levies, charges, and fees as taxes. It would also increase the vote threshold required to approve new local taxes from a simple majority to a two-thirds majority.

While all three proposals will appear on the same ballot, ACA 13 is written to apply retroactively. If voters approve ACA 13 (with a simple majority vote), the citizen-initiated tax measure would need a two-thirds majority to pass. If voters reject ACA 13, the citizen-initiated tax measure would need only a simple majority.

Additionally, ACA 1 and the citizen-initiated tax measure both contain contradicting language. If voters approve both, California case law holds that the one with the most affirmative votes would go into effect, though this scenario would likely play out in court.

As is the case with many tax-related ballot measures in California, these proposals represent the newest chapter in a long-running story that began with the adoption of Prop. 13 in 1978.

We wrote about Prop. 13 on its 45th anniversary back in June. This measure limited property tax rates and set vote thresholds to pass future tax proposals. Since its passage, Californians have decided 34 statewide measures to change rules, requirements, and rates tied to the Proposition, approving 24 and rejecting 10.

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Four months to go until the Iowa caucuses

Last week, 11 of the 14 noteworthy Republican presidential candidates we are following campaigned in Iowa, the state set to hold the first nominating contest of the Republican presidential primary. Caucuses there are set for Jan. 15, 2024.

Our analysis of presidential campaign tracking from the Des Moines Register found that, between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2023, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy spent the most days in Iowa at 31. Businessman Ryan Binkley follows at 27, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson spent the third-most days in the state with 26.

Neither former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie nor former Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton spent any days in Iowa during that time.

With roughly four months to go until the first nominating contests in the 2024 presidential election, the early primary calendar has begun to take shape, but some uncertainties still remain.

For Republicans, three of the four early primary states have scheduled their nominating events.

Iowa and Nevada are holding caucuses on Jan. 15 and Feb. 8, respectively. South Carolina set its primary for Feb. 24.

The primary date in New Hampshire remains to be determined. State law requires its primaries to be the first in the nation at least one week before the next earliest primary, which currently is South Carolina’s Feb. 24 date for Republicans.

Secretary of State David Scanlan (R) has not yet announced New Hampshire’s primary date and has until Oct. 1 to do so under Republican National Committee rules.

For Democrats, three states have scheduled primaries in the early window. South Carolina, Nevada, and Michigan are holding primaries on Feb. 3, Feb. 6, and Feb. 27, respectively.

These dates all adhere to the Democratic National Committee’s proposed primary calendar, which also placed Georgia and New Hampshire in the early primary window.

But Republicans control the scheduling process in both Georgia and New Hampshire.

In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger (R) set the primary date for March 12, which falls outside the early primary window. And, as mentioned above, Scanlan has not yet set a date in New Hampshire.

Additionally, the Democratic National Committee has not yet approved a delegate selection plan for Iowa, which previously held the first-in-the-nation caucuses for Democrats but was removed from the party’s early lineup.

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Both candidates in competitive Virginia House race complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Both candidates running to represent Virginia House of Delegates District 22—Travis Nembhard (D) and Ian Lovejoy (R)—completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey.

These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about what motivates them to run for office and help give an idea of how they will govern if elected.

The race for District 22 is one of seven we are watching closely in the House of Delegates this year.

CNalysis rates this race as Tilt Republican. According to their analysis, had this district existed in 2020, President Joe Biden (D) would have won it by a margin of 5.5 percentage points.

The Virginia Public Access Project rates the district as Competitive. The site estimated that Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) would have won the district under its new lines by a margin of 7.0 percentage points in 2021.

Republicans won control of the House during the 2021 elections and currently hold a 50-46 majority in the chamber. There are currently four vacancies.

Here are the candidate’s responses to the question: What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about? Click on each name to view their full survey responses.

Nembhard: “I am … passionate about creating a better community for my family, with a focus on addressing issues impacting working families such as universal childcare and paid family leave … I believe in bipartisanship and taking a measured approach to tackle unique community issues.”

Lovejoy: “I’m passionate about fighting for Virginia families and communities. I’m laser focused on working with our police and first responders to drive back rising crime rates and to ensure parents have a say in their children’s education.”

We ask all federal, state, and local candidates with profiles on Ballotpedia to complete our survey and share their motivations. If you have any upcoming elections, ask the candidates in your area to fill out the survey here.

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