Welcome to the Friday, November 17, Brew.
By: Samuel Wonacott
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- State legislative elections in New Jersey and Virginia could affect future constitutional amendments
- Update on this year’s and next year’s ballot measure certifications
- #FridayTrivia: How many U.S. Senators have announced they aren’t running for re-election in 2024 so far?
State legislative elections in New Jersey and Virginia could affect future constitutional amendments
On Nov. 7, Democrats in Virginia won a majority in the state House, while Democrats in New Jersey gained a supermajority in both legislative chambers.
Here’s how those changes could affect legislatively referred constitutional amendments in those states in the coming years. Legislative referrals appear as statewide ballot measures.
In every state but Delaware, lawmakers seeking to amend their state’s constitution must get voter approval. In most states, legislators vote once to put an amendment on the ballot. However, in New Jersey, Virginia, and 11 other states, legislators are generally required to vote on an amendment in two consecutive sessions to place it on the ballot. In four states, including New Jersey, an amendment that receives a supermajority in the first round can bypass the second.
Historically, the two-session requirement has made it less likely an amendment will appear on the ballot. Between 2010 and 2022, for example, 37.7% of proposed amendments in the 13 two-session requirement states did not make the ballot because they failed in the second session. When party control of the legislature changed between sessions in this same period, 79% of constitutional amendments (11 out of 14) failed in the second session.
In Nevada between 2010 and 2022, for example, only one of the seven amendments lawmakers approved in one session made it through a second. In Wisconsin, three constitutional amendments also failed to make the ballot due to party control changes between sessions.
Here is how everything breaks down politically right now (excluding Delaware, which does not require voter approval for constitutional amendments):
- In the 36 states that only require one session to refer an amendment to voters, 11 have a Democratic trifecta, 19 have a Republican trifecta, and six have a divided government
- In the nine states with a two-session requirement, three have a Republican trifecta, two have a Democratic trifecta, and four have a divided government.
- In the four states with a one- or two-session requirement (depending on the size of the vote), three have a Democratic trifecta and one has a divided government.
This year, state lawmakers put 31 amendments on the ballot. They put 89 amendments on the ballot in 2022. In odd-numbered years between 2011 and 2021, lawmakers referred an average of 19 amendments to the ballot.
Looking ahead to 2024, legislators have so far referred 39 amendments to the ballot (and counting!).
Here’s what happened in New Jersey and Virginia last week.
If an amendment receives at least 60% of the votes in both chambers, lawmakers can bypass the two-session requirement. That’s a minimum of 48 votes in the Assembly and 24 votes in the Senate, assuming no vacancies. Democrats gained a 51-28 majority in the Assembly and a 25-15 majority in the Senate.
Since 2021, when Democrats lost their supermajority, there have been no constitutional amendments on the ballot. Voters decided two gambling-related amendments in 2021, and three—including one that legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana—in 2020.
Virginia Democrats won a 52-48 majority in the House and maintained their majority in the state Senate. The state has a divided government (Republican Glenn Youngkin is governor). With Democratic control of both legislature chambers, lawmakers can give first round approval to an amendment with a simple majority. For those amendments to go to voters, however, Democrats will need to retain their majority in the House in 2025.
Two constitutional amendments failed to make the ballot in 2022 after lawmakers approved them during the previous session. One amendment would have repealed Question 1, a 2006 measure that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. The other would have restored voting rights to persons convicted of a felony after completing their sentence. The Democratically controlled House and Senate approved both amendments in 2021, but elections in November gave Republicans control of the House. Democratic majorities in the Senate again approved both amendments in 2022, but neither passed the House.
One amendment could make the ballot in 2024. The amendment would change language in the Virginia Constitution regarding property tax exemptions for veterans and surviving spouses to say died in the line of duty rather than killed in action. It passed the House and Senate unanimously in 2023 and must pass the House and Senate again in 2024 to make the ballot.
Learn more about two-session requirements at the link below.
Update on this year’s and next year’s ballot measure certifications
Speaking of ballot measures, the final four statewide measures of 2023 will be decided tomorrow, Nov. 18, in Louisiana. Let’s briefly review what has happened in the world of statewide ballot measures this year, and take a look at how 2024 is shaping up.
In 2023, 41 statewide measures were certified in eight states—10 more than the average certified in odd-numbered years from 2011 to 2021. Voters this year have approved 30 measures and rejected seven.
Turning to 2024, 55 measures have been certified in 24 states so far. That’s five more than the average certified at this point from 2010 to 2022.
From 2012 to 2022, an average of 164 statewide measures were certified in even-number years from 2012 to 2022.
Generally, most measures are certified between June and August—right before the November elections.
Here’s an update on the most recent 2024 ballot measure news:
Three ballot measures were certified last week, all in Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin Election Officials Amendment (April 2, 2024)
- Wisconsin Prohibition on Non-Governmental Funding of Elections Amendment (April 2, 2024)
- Wisconsin Citizenship Voting Requirement Amendment (November 5, 2024)
Click below to learn more about 2024 ballot measures.
#FridayTrivia: How many U.S. Senators have announced they aren’t running for re-election in 2024 so far?
The end of the year is barrelling toward us, and attention has shifted to the 2024 election cycle. One key congressional indicator we like to watch is the number of incumbent U.S. Senators and Representatives who announce they’re not running for re-election.
In the Wednesday Brew, following U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) announcement that he would not seek re-election, we brought you an update on the latest numbers. So far, 32 members of Congress have announced they won’t run next year. The number of retiring U.S. Senators is the highest in a decade.
How many U.S. Senators have announced they aren’t running for re-election in 2024?