The 8th-closest California statewide ballot measure since 1908

Welcome to the Friday, March 29, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. California Proposition 1 is the eighth-closest statewide ballot measure election since 1908, with a margin of 0.38 percentage points 
  2. Mississippi House advances Medicaid expansion with work requirements
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many states allow voters to recall school board members

California Proposition 1 is the eighth-closest statewide ballot measure election since at least 1908, with a margin of 0.38 percentage points 

On March 5, California voters approved Proposition 1, a measure changing how the state funds mental healthcare, by a margin of .38 percentage points—the eighth-closest California ballot measure election since at least 1908. As of March 28, “yes” votes lead “no” votes 50.19% to 49.81% (election officials are still processing mail-in ballots).

The Associated Press called the measure 15 days after the election.

California has a long history of ballot measures, and through our Historic Ballot Measures project (HBM), we’ve set out to document it all. This ongoing research effort will provide an unparalleled resource for researchers, reporters, and the voting public on how ballot measures have evolved, the issues they’ve covered, and their role in our civic life. 

Our California dataset is complete up to 1908. 

Proposition 1 joins 16 other California statewide measures decided by a margin of less than 0.5 percentage points of the vote. Let’s look at the 10 closest statewide ballot measure elections in California. 

The measure with the closest margin was SCA 14, the Increase State Officers’ Salaries Amendment, in 1908. It was approved by a margin of two votes (out of 185,114 votes cast). It increased the annual compensation for state officers, including the governor.

Nine of the 15 closest measures were defeated, and six were approved. Most measures (10) were decided at elections before 1950. Only one measure in the closest 15 elections, Proposition 29 (2012), was decided in the last 25 years. Proposition 29, an initiative that would have enacted a tobacco tax to fund cancer research, was defeated with 0.47 percentage points separating “yes” and “no” vote totals.

In 2022, we looked at the closest and widest vote margins for state ballot measures in California. The 10 statewide ballot measures in California between 1910 and 2022 with the widest vote margins averaged at least a 71 percentage point margin between the winning and losing sides. The ballot measure with the widest margin during that period was Proposition 12 in 1972, which won with a 79.47 percentage point margin. 

Let’s briefly return to the present. What’s next for Proposition 1? 

After conceding defeat on March 12, Proposition 1 opponents released a statement reviving their campaign to get rejected ballots counted, an effort Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) campaign is also undertaking. State law requires the secretary of state to certify statewide election results no later than 38 days after the election. Proposition 1 results will be certified by April 12.

There are no automatic recounts for statewide ballot measure campaigns in California. Voters can request one in a specific county or counties but must pay for the recount. The governor can also call for a recount of a statewide measure under certain conditions

Paul Simmons, a director of Californians Against Prop. 1, said, “We don’t know if reviving rejected ballots will change the outcome of this election, but if the governor thinks it might, we for damn sure aren’t going to let him have the field to himself.”

The governor’s federal PAC, Campaign for Democracy, sent an email seeking volunteers to help voters whose ballots were rejected. The email read, “This ballot initiative is SO CLOSE that your commitment to volunteer could mean the difference between people getting off the streets and into the treatment they need… or not.”

Newsom proposed Proposition 1. It was the product of two laws passed in 2023. Democrats were unanimous in voting for the bills, while Republicans were more divided. 

Learn more about Proposition 1 at the link below. 

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Mississippi House advances Medicaid expansion with work requirements 

The Mississippi House of Representatives voted 98-20 on Feb. 28 to advance a bill that would expand Medicaid eligibility in Mississippi for people who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level and meet work requirements. 

Republicans hold a 79-41 majority (with two independents) in the House.

HB 1725 directs the Mississippi Division of Medicaid to apply for a waiver from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement the proposed Healthy Mississippi Works plan. The plan would require individuals to work at least 20 hours a week, be a full-time student, or enroll in a workforce training program to be eligible for Medicaid benefits. If CMS approves the waiver but does not approve the work requirement component, the bill includes language allowing Medicaid expansion without work requirements.

Ballotpedia covers the history and timeline of Medicaid work requirements, as well as related court cases and noteworthy events. 

States have the flexibility to develop experimental Medicaid demonstration projects suited to their specific needs and objectives, as outlined in Section 1115 of the Social Security Act. To do so, states must submit an application to CMS for approval of a Section 1115 waiver. This process ensures that state policies are aligned with CMS goals.

During the Trump administration, CMS approved Section 1115 waivers with Medicaid work requirements for 13 states. The Biden administration later withdrew those waivers. Georgia, the only state with Medicaid work requirements, won a federal lawsuit against the CMS in 2022.  

In November, South Dakota voters will decide on the Medicaid Work Requirement Amendment. It would allow the state to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries. 

Learn more about Medicaid work requirements at the link below.
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#FridayTrivia: How many states allow voters to recall school board members?

In the Monday edition, we brought you a recent story from Hall Pass, our weekly education newsletter, on school board recalls. We reviewed nearly 500 school board recall efforts since 2006 and found that three have been related to school book policies (such as the selection of library books).

In recent years, disagreements over book policies have featured prominently in some school board meetings and school board elections. 

Two of three recalls are currently underway, while one began in 2023 and went to a vote in January of this year.

Thirty-nine states allow voters to recall at least some elected officials. A smaller number allow voters to recall school board members. 

How many states allow voters to recall school board members?

  1. 38
  2. 23
  3. 18
  4. 27