Costs to collect signatures for state ballot initiatives in 2023 were higher than the average for the previous five odd-year cycles

In 2023, $12.95 million was expended on signature drives for seven citizen-initiated ballot measures, including six that voters will decide on Nov. 7. Earlier in 2023, voters decided on a ballot initiative in Oklahoma. The average cost for the signature drives amounted to $1.85 million, ranging from $75,341 for Oklahoma State Question 820 to $6.65 million for Ohio Issue 1.

An initiative is a proposed law that requires signatures to secure a spot on the ballot for voters to decide. Requirements are different from state to state, such as the number of signatures required, circulation periods, and signature gatherer rules.

Ballotpedia uses two methods to measure the cost of a citizen-initiated ballot measure petition drive:

  • Total Cost: the total expenditures spent on gathering the required number of signatures to put an initiative on the ballot
  • Cost-Per-Required Signature (CPRS): the total expenditures spent on gathering signatures relative to the number of signatures required for the measure to appear on the ballot

CPRS measures the costs based on the number of signatures required. CPRS allows for comparisons of signature costs within a state and between states. For a campaign that spends $1.00 million on a petition drive in a state where 100,000 signatures are required, the CPRS would be $10.000, or $10.00 per required signature.

In 2023, the average cost-per-required signature (CPRS) was $9.38. CPRS ranged from $0.79 for Oklahoma State Question 820 to $16.28 for Ohio Question 2.

About 83% of the total signature-gathering costs in 2023 were for the two ballot initiatives in Ohio. The PACs behind Issue 1 and Issue 2 hired Advanced Micro Targeting to conduct signature drives.

Ohio Issue 1, an initiative to establish a state constitutional right to abortion, had the most expensive signature drive at $6.65 million. Supporters needed to collect 413,488 valid signatures, resulting in a CPRS of $16.08.

Ohio Issue 2, a marijuana legalization initiative, had the highest CPRS at $16.28. A total of $4.06 million was spent to collect 249,092 required signatures.

The average cost of a signature drive in 2023 was $1.85 million in 2023. That’s the highest average cost, for an odd-numbered election year, during the period from 2013 to 2023. In 2021, the average cost was $1.34 million.

The average CPRS in 2023 was $9.38. That’s above the average CPRS for 2013 to 2023—$8.34—but below 2021, when the average CPRS was $14.74, and 2017, when the average CPRS was $15.40.

Additional reading: Ballot measures cost per required signatures analysis

2023 ballot measures