Highest number of odd-year constitutional amendments approved since 2003

Welcome to the Tuesday, November 28, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. Voters in six states decided 32 constitutional amendments, most in odd-numbered years since 2003
  2. Five new U.S. states and territories announced dates for 2024 presidential nominating contests
  3. Colorado top-four ranked-choice voting initiative to be filed for 2024 ballot

Voters in six states decided 32 constitutional amendments, most in odd-numbered years since 2003

As we move toward the end of 2023, let’s continue our look back at the year’s top political stories. On the menu today: constitutional amendments. In 49 states (Delaware being the exception), voters must approve any proposed changes to their constitutions. 

This year, voters in six states decided 32 amendments—the most in an odd year since 2003. Voters approved 27 of the amendments, or 84.38%. The average approval rate for amendments in odd years from 2003 to 2021 was 78.8%. It was 70.4% in even-numbered years during that period.

Here are some highlights from the year:

  • Texas and Louisiana had the most amendments on the ballot. Texas voters approved 13 of 14 proposed amendments. Louisiana voters approved seven of eight proposed amendments. Texas and Louisiana had more amendments on the ballot from 2003 to 2023 than any other states, including in both even- and odd-numbered years. 
  • Voters in New York adopted both of the constitutional changes on their ballot. One related to debt limitations for small school districts, and the other to sewage facility indebtedness.
  • Wisconsin voters approved two constitutional amendments in 2023. Those related to the conditions for releasing an accused person before conviction and cash bail.
  • Voters in Maine decided four amendments, approving two of them.  
  • In Ohio, voters rejected an amendment that would have required a 60% vote of approval to adopt constitutional changes and approved a measure that created a state constitutional right to abortion. The latter is the most expensive abortion-related ballot measure election since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It was also the most expensive one since at least 2009, when we began tracking ballot measure campaign finance. 

In 2023, 41 statewide ballot measures—including both proposed statutes and constitutional amendments—were certified for the ballot in Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin. That’s the most in an odd-numbered year since 2007. Of the 41 total measures on the ballot (including initiatives) in 2023, 33 (80.5%) were approved and eight (19.5%) were defeated.

Fifty-five statewide measures have been certified for 2024.

Learn more about statewide ballot measures in 2023 at the link below.

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Five new U.S. states and territories announced dates for 2024 presidential nominating contests 

The 2024 election calendar has gradually come together over the last few months as states have announced primary election dates and candidate filing deadlines, and we’ve been bringing you regular updates on the latest news. 

Here are some announcements since our last update:

  • New Hampshire will hold its presidential primary on Jan. 23, making it the season’s first primary. Last year, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted for South Carolina to hold the first presidential primary in 2024. However, New Hampshire election officials have cited a state law requiring their primary to precede similar elections by at least a week. President Joe Biden (D) will not appear on the New Hampshire primary ballot. 
  • In Washington, D.C., Republicans will hold their presidential caucus on March 3.
  • Republicans in Puerto Rico will hold their presidential caucus on April 21. 
  • Democrats in the U.S. Virgin Islands will hold their presidential caucus on June 8.
  • Republicans in Michigan will hold a two-stage presidential nominating contest in which a primary on Feb. 27 and county caucuses on March 2 will choose convention delegates.

Looking at the big picture, all 50 states, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia have announced the dates for their 2024 statewide primaries. Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas will all share the earliest 2024 statewide primary date, which is March 5 (Super Tuesday!). Louisiana will hold the last statewide primary of the year on Nov. 5 due to its unique majority-vote system.

The following U.S. territories have NOT announced their statewide primary dates:

  • American Samoa
  • North Mariana Islands
  • Puerto Rico

Separately, 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Democrats Abroad have announced the date for at least one of their presidential nominating contests. 

The following U.S. states and territories have NOT announced at least one of their presidential primary or caucus dates:

  • Wyoming (Republicans)
  • American Samoa (Republicans)
  • Guam (Republicans)
  • North Mariana Islands (Republicans)

The 2024 election cycle kicked off Nov. 10 with the passing of Alabama’s candidate filing deadline for state, congressional, and presidential primaries. Looking at the rest of the year, filing deadlines are approaching in Illinois (Dec. 4), California (Dec. 8), Texas (Dec. 11), North Carolina (Dec. 15), and Ohio (Dec. 20). 

Click below to read more about the 2024 election calendar.

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Colorado top-four ranked-choice voting initiative to be filed for 2024 ballot

Oregon and Nevada are already slated to weigh in on measures to adopt ranked-choice voting (RCV) in 2024. There’s a chance voters in Colorado could do so, as well.  

RCV is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. Alaska and Maine use RCV in federal and statewide elections, while Hawaii uses it in some statewide elections. Additionally, in 14 states, municipalities use or are scheduled to use RCV in some elections. 

The initiative proposes changes similar to those in Alaskas’ Ballot Measure 2 in 2020:

  • Candidates in state executive, state legislative, and congressional elections would run in a single primary, regardless of party affiliation, with the top-four vote-getters advancing to a general election.
  • In the general election, voters would rank the four candidates. A candidate who gets a simple majority (50%+1) would win. 
  • If no candidate wins a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated, and the people who voted for that candidate as their first choice would have their votes redistributed to their second choice. This process would continue until a candidate received more than 50% of the total vote.

Kent Thiry, the former CEO of DaVita, a healthcare company, announced last week he plans to file the initiative with the Colorado’s Initiatives & Title Board. If the Board approves the initiative, Thiry’s campaign would need to submit 124,238 valid signatures by Aug. 5, 2024, for it to appear on the November ballot. 

As of this writing, Thiry has donated $6.7 million to state and local candidates and ballot measure committees in Colorado.

Currently, Colorado’s primaries are conducted on a semi-closed basis, meaning that only registered party members and unaffiliated voters may participate in a party’s primary. Colorado is one of 14 states where at least one political party conducts semi-closed primaries for congressional and state-level offices.

RCV has been on the ballot six times in four states since 1965. All six measures were citizen initiatives, and voters approved the ones in Maine, Alaska, and Nevada (in Nevada, the amendment will not take effect unless voters approve it again in 2024). Additionally, we’ve identified 67 local measures to adopt RCV. Voters approved 52 (77.61%) and rejected 15 (22.39%). Five local governments in Colorado use RCV for some elections—Basalt, Boulder, Broomfield, Carbondale, and Telluride. Fort Collins is scheduled to use RCV in elections in 2025. 

In addition to Colorado, a measure to adopt top-four ranked-choice voting in Idaho could also appear on the November 2024 ballot. 

Click here to read more about RCV. In December, we’ll be running a four-part series looking at RCV, including talking to experts who’ve taken different stances on the issue, on our weekly podcast, On the Ballot. Subscribe here, and stay tuned for more on the upcoming series. 

Click below to read more about the measure to adopt RCV in Colorado. 

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