Author

Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jackie.mitchell@ballotpedia.org

Signatures for Colorado gray wolf initiative due Friday the 13th

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund (RMWAF) needs to submit signature petitions by Friday to qualify their initiative for the 2020 ballot. The measure would require the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves on designated lands in the western part of the state by the end of 2023.
The gray wolf, Canis lupus, was classified as a federally endangered species in 1978 (except in Minnesota, where it was classified as threatened). The gray wolf was removed from the endangered lists in Idaho and Montana in 2011. Idaho and Montana began wolf reintroduction programs in 1995.
To qualify for the 2020 ballot, 124,632 valid signatures are due on December 13, 2019. As of late October 2019, sponsors reported having collected around 170,000 signatures. The average signature validity rate for ballot initiative petitions is 75.33%, according to a study based on 143 ballot initiatives from 2006 through 2018.
Proponents of ballot initiatives in Colorado have a six-month window to collect the required number of signatures, which establishes a specific deadline for each measure. The overall deadline for all 2020 initiatives in Colorado is August 3.
According to campaign finance reports which covered through September 30, the group has raised about $797,000 in cash and $100,000 in in-kind contributions. Speaking about why they believe gray wolves should be reintroduced in Colorado, RMWAF wrote, “Since the 1940s, when Colorado’s last wolf was killed, our ecosystem has suffered. A lack of natural balance means that too many elk and deer eat away the vegetation that holds streams and rivers back, leading to erosion and the disruption of even more habitats, like those for native beavers and songbirds. Wolves also naturally limit the spread of disease, such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), by taking vulnerable animals out of the population.”
Colorado Stop the Wolf Coalition is leading the campaign against the measure. The group has not yet reported campaign finance activity. The Colorado Farm Bureau is also opposed to the measure. CFB Vice President of Advocacy Shawn Martini said, “We remain skeptical that you can introduce wolves into Colorado and not create significant problems. Not only to our way of life here in the state which is based on outdoor recreations but also on livestock production in the western part of the state and to the ecosystem. Colorado is home to a number of endangered species that could be potentially be preyed upon by an apex predatory like the Canadian gray wolf. So we’re skeptical that these kinds of decisions should be put in the hands of voters through a ballot initiative.”
Two measures are currently certified for the 2020 ballot in Colorado: a citizen-initiated veto referendum over Colorado joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and a transportation bond issue referred to the ballot by the state legislature.
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Court hearing for Washington I-976 set for November 26

Washington voters approved Initiative 976 earlier this month in a vote of 53% to 47%. The measure, sponsored by Tim Eyman, was designed to limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30 except voter-approved charges, base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than 85% of the manufacturer’s base suggested retail price, and repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.
 
Shortly after the election, nine plaintiffs including the City of Seattle, King County, the Washington State Transit Association, and the Association of Washington Cities filed a lawsuit seeking to block I-976 from taking effect. The State of Washington was named as the defendant.
 
The plaintiffs argue that I-976 is unconstitutional, violated the single-subject rule, and misled voters. Plaintiffs wrote, “As with prior initiatives by the same sponsor, I-976 is a poorly drafted hodge-podge that violates multiple provisions of the Constitution.” Tim Eyman wrote, “Seattle government suing the voters because they didn’t like the voters’ decision is arrogant and infuriating. The people outside Seattle don’t want these dishonest vehicle taxes and fees and they shouldn’t be forced to continue to pay them just because Seattle is OK with such dishonesty.”
 
Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) would be tasked with defending the state against the lawsuit. In March 2017, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) sued Tim Eyman for $2.1 million, alleging that Eyman profited from money donated to his initiative campaigns and violated campaign finance laws. In an email on November 21, Eyman wrote, “On one side, you have Seattle government suing the voters. And on the other side is Bob Ferguson ‘defending’ our vote. An AG who is pro-Sound Transit, anti-Eyman, and actively undermining I-976 with the Dept of Licensing. So it’s two opponents of I-976 colluding to negate the people’s vote.”
 
A hearing was scheduled for November 26, 2019.
 
Eyman has sponsored or worked on a number of ballot initiative campaigns in Washington each year since at least 1998. Of the Eyman initiatives that have been filed, 17 qualified for the ballot and 11 were approved by voters. As of 2019, six of the approved measures were entirely overturned and two others were partially invalidated by the courts.
 
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Voters in New Orleans approve bond proposition, short term rental tax, and Human Rights Commission measure; defeat millage proposition

Voters in New Orleans decided four ballot measures on November 16, 2019, approving three of them and rejecting one. All of the measures were referred to the ballot by the New Orleans City Council.
 
Approved measures:
 
  • Short Term Rentals Occupancy Tax (65% in favor, 35% against): This measure authorized an additional 6.75% tax on the rent or fee charged for short-term rentals to raise revenue for infrastructure improvements and a fund to promote tourism in New Orleans. The funds to promote tourism would be allocated to New Orleans & Company, formerly the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • Human Rights Commission Charter Amendment (74% in favor, 27% against): This measure amended the Home Rule Charter of New Orleans to create a local Human Rights Commission. Going into the election, there was a Human Relations Commission that was created in Chapter 86 of the City Code. The City of New Orleans website on the Human Relations Commission wrote, “The Human Relations Commission was created in the early 1990s in New Orleans. Because it was not put in the City’s Home Rule Charter, it does not have the powers granted by the state to local human rights commissions. Today, it is only able to provide information and referrals.”
  • Bond Proposition (66% in favor, 34% against): This measure authorized the city to issue up to $500 million in bonds to fund infrastructure improvements, public buildings, housing projects, recreational facilities, public safety equipment, and all necessary land and equipment for said improvements.
 
Defeated measure:
 
  • Millage Proposition (54% against, 46% in favor): This measure would have authorized a special tax of $3.00 per $1,000.00 of assessed value of all taxable property for twenty years, beginning January 1, 2020, to help fund infrastructure repairs and purchase equipment, software, and technology for the city. City officials estimated the tax would have generated about $10.5 million in revenue each year. Officials from the New Orleans police and fire departments supported the measure.


Colorado Citizen Voters announces submitting 200,000 signatures for 2020 initiative to require Colorado voters to be U.S. citizens

On November 12, 2019, Colorado Citizen Voters, sponsors of Colorado Initiative 76, announced having collected and submitted around 200,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the 2020 ballot. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures are required.
 
This measure would amend the Colorado Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors in Colorado.
 
Constitution as it presently exists: Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.
 
Proposed change under the ballot measure: Only a citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.
 
Similar amendments are certified to appear on the 2020 ballot in Alabama and Florida.
 
Voters in North Dakota decided on a similar measure, Measure 2, in 2018. The measure amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. Measure 2 was approved by a vote of 66% to 34%.
 
Voters in San Francisco approved a measure, Proposition N, in 2016 which allowed non-citizens to register to vote in school board elections. New York City allowed non-citizens to vote in local school board elections from 1968 to 2003 until the city abolished elected school boards. As of 2019, 11 cities in Maryland, including Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Takoma Park allowed non-citizens to vote. Chicago has allowed non-citizens to vote and serve on its school councils since 1989.
 
All state constitutions mention United States citizenship when discussing who can vote in that state’s elections. State constitutional language discussing citizenship is inclusive in most states, meaning the language states who can vote (e.g. “every citizen” or “all citizens”), but does not state that non-citizens cannot vote. Arizona and North Dakota have exclusive language, meaning the states’ constitutions require voters to be U.S. citizens exclusively.
 
Twenty-one (21) states use the specific phrase “Every citizen of the United States…” when discussing who is a qualified elector. An additional 16 states use the word “every” but structure the sentence differently. Six states use the word “all” or “any” when discussing citizenship and suffrage. Six other states have some other way of phrasing the sentence. For example, Virginia’s constitution says “Each voter shall be a citizen of the United States” and includes a section in the Bill of Rights that says, “all elections ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage.” North Dakota is the only state to use the phrase “Only a citizen of the United States…” after having changed it from “every” via a constitutional amendment in 2018.
 


Washington residents voted on 15 ballot measures on November 5; here’s what happened

Fifteen statewide ballot measures were on the ballot in Washington on November 5, including three binding statewide ballot measures and 12 non-binding tax advisory votes.
 
Citizen initiated measures:
 
Referendum 88, which was rejected, was a statewide vote on I-1000 (an initiative to allow affirmative action that was approved by the legislature). A yes vote on R-88 was a vote to approve I-1000 and allow affirmative action policies in Washington, and a no vote on R-88 was a vote to reject I-1000 and continue to ban preferential treatment, restricting certain affirmative action policies in Washington. As of November 12, the vote on R-88 was 49.49% in favor to 50.41% against. An estimated 48,000 ballots were left to be counted, but most of them were in counties that had opposed to I-1000 according to already counted ballots.
 
Initiative 976 was approved. It was designed to (1) limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30 except voter-approved charges; (2) base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than 85% of the manufacturer’s base suggested retail price; and (3) repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes. As of November 12, the vote on I-976 was 53.01% in favor to 46.99% against. King County, Seattle, and Sound Transit had announced their intentions to file lawsuits over Initiative 976.
 
Legislative amendment:
 
The state legislature referred one constitutional amendment to the 2019 ballot. The amendment was approved. It authorized the Washington State Legislature to pass bills that address the succession of powers and duties of public offices when the offices’ incumbents and legal successors are unavailable for carrying out the office during periods of catastrophic incidents that are considered emergencies. As of November 12, the vote on the amendment was 65.26% in favor to 34.74% against.
 
Tax advisory votes:
 
The 12 tax advisory votes were nonbinding questions that advised the legislature to repeal or maintain bills passed in the 2019 legislative session that increased taxes. A majority of voters were in favor of maintaining three bills and repealing the other nine. The 12 advisory questions on the ballot this year was the largest number of advisory questions on tax increases in Washington required by the state’s automatic process. There were between three and five in 2017, 2015, and 2013.


Florida $15 Minimum Wage Initiative to appear on 2020 ballot

Florida voters will decide in 2020 whether to raise the state’s minimum wage, which is currently $8.46 per hour. The measure, which will appear on the 2020 ballot as Amendment 2, would increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour on September 30, 2021, and raise the wage by $1 per year until reaching $15 per hour on September 30, 2026. Thereafter, the minimum wage would be adjusted each year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
 
To qualify a citizen initiative for the 2020 ballot in Florida, 766,200 valid signatures are required. In July of 2019, initiative sponsor John Morgan reported having collected more than 1 million signatures for Amendment 2. As of November 11, 2019, the Florida Division of Elections showed that proponents had submitted 768,478 valid signatures and met the state’s distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts.
 
Excluding D.C., which has a minimum wage of $14.00 per hour, the average state minimum wage is around $8.68 in 2019. The highest statewide minimum wages based on state law are $12.00 in California, Massachusetts, and Washington. In metropolitan Portland, Oregon, the minimum wage is $12.50. In New York City, the minimum wage is $15.00 for certain employers. The lowest minimum wages based on state law are $5.15 in Georgia and Wyoming, which is lower than the federal government’s requirement (therefore, the federal government’s requirement supersedes state law for most types of employees).
 
Voters throughout the country have decided 27 statewide ballot measures concerning the minimum wage since 1988, all but one of which reached the ballot through initiative signature petitions. The last time voters rejected a minimum wage increase at the ballot was in Missouri and Montana in 1996. The Missouri measure (rejected by a vote of 71% to 29%) would have required all employers to pay employees an hourly minimum wage of $6.25, with a $0.15 annual increase. The Montana measure (rejected by a vote of 56% to 44%) would have re-established a state minimum wage that would have gradually increased from $4.25 an hour to $6.25 an hour by the year 2000.
 
Also on Florida’s 2020 ballot is Amendment 1, which would amend the Florida Constitution to state that only a citizen (rather than every citizen) of the U.S. can vote in Florida.
 
From 1996 to 2018, an average of between seven and eight measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Florida. Of all 91 measures on the ballot between 1996 and 2018, 76% were approved and 24% were defeated.
 


Texas Proposition 10, allowing a retiring law enforcement animal to be transferred to the animal’s handler, is approved by a vote of 94% to

Texas voters approved Proposition 10 in a vote of 94% in favor to 6% against.
 
Under the state’s Local Government Code, a retiring police dog or working animal is classified as salvage or surplus property and, according to code, surplus or salvage property can be auctioned, donated to a civic or charitable organization, or destroyed. According to the Texas Senate Research Center, the existing Local Government Code makes transferring a retiring animal to its handler difficult. Proposition 10 allows agencies to transfer a dog, horse, or another animal to the animal’s handler or another qualified person if the transfer is in the animal’s best interest.
 
Proposition 10’s 94% is the highest approval percentage for a Texas amendment since at least 1888, which is as far back as election results records go in Texas.


Voters in New Jersey approve statewide measure to extend veterans’ property tax deductions to continuing care retirement communities

New Jersey residents voted to extend the $250 property tax deduction that veterans receive to continuing care retirement centers on behalf of the veterans living there and require the retirement centers to pass the value of the deduction on to veterans in the form of credits or payments. The vote was 76% to 24%.
 
As of 2019, veterans who were honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances were eligible to receive a $250 deduction from their property tax bill in New Jersey. Surviving spouses of honorably discharged veterans who are deceased or soldiers who died on active duty during war could also claim the deduction.
 
Question 1 extends the $250 property tax deduction that veterans receive to continuing care retirement centers on behalf of the veterans living there. The ballot measure requires the continuing care retirement center to provide the $250 to an eligible veteran, or an eligible surviving spouse of a veteran or soldier, as a payment or credit. Continuing care retirement centers that are tax-exempt are ineligible to receive the deductions under the measure.


74% of PA voters voted in favor of Marsy’s Law, though election results cannot be certified pending a court ruling

A majority of Pennsylvania voters voted in favor of a measure to add specific rights of crime victims, together known as a Marsy’s Law, to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The vote was 74% to 26%.
 
On October 30, 2019, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court enjoined Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar from counting or certifying election results. The preliminary injunction resulted from a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters that argues the measure violates the state’s separate vote requirement by combining multiple changes to the constitution into one measure. Wanda Murren, communications director of the state department, said the court’s order “does not prohibit the counties from following any of their normal election procedures,” which means results were available on election night.
 
A similar situation happened with a Marsy’s Law in Kentucky last year. Courts ruled that the ballot language for the Kentucky amendment did not sufficiently inform voters and that the amendment was invalid. The preliminary ruling happened too late to take the measure off the ballot, so voters saw it on the ballot, and 63% approved it. The measure was in limbo until seven months later when the Kentucky Supreme Court give the final ruling, officially invalidating the measure.
 
Montana’s 2016 Marsy’s Law amendment was also struck down by a post-election ruling. In that case, the ruling was based on the state’s separate vote requirement
 
As of 2019, voters in 12 states had approved a ballot measure for Marsy’s Law. The first was in California in 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, voters had approved Marsy’s Law in Illinois (2014), Montana (2016), North Dakota (2016), South Dakota (2016), Ohio (2017), Florida (2018), Georgia (2018), Kentucky (2018), Nevada (2018), North Carolina (2018), and Oklahoma (2018). Wisconsin is scheduled to vote on Marsy’s Law on April 7, 2020. Ballotpedia identified $102.26 million in total contributions to the support campaigns for the 12 Marsy’s Law ballot measures that were on ballots between 2008 and 2018. Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., and the organization Marsy’s Law for All provided 97 percent—about 99.3 million—of the total contributions. Marsy’s Law is named after Henry Nicholas’ sister, who was murdered in 1983.
 


Kansas voters vote to end state practice of adjusting census population regarding military personnel and students

Kansas voters approved a constitutional amendment ending the state’s practice of adjusting the U.S. Census population regarding military personnel and students when redistricting the Kansas State Legislature. The vote was 60% to 40%.
 
Going into the election, the Kansas Constitution required the state legislature to apportion state legislative districts based on the most recent U.S. Census, with an adjustment to (1) exclude nonresident military personnel stationed in Kansas and nonresident students and (2) include resident military personnel and resident students in the district of their permanent residence. The ballot measure eliminated the requirement to adjust the census population for state legislative apportionment.
 
Secretary of State Scott Schwab (R), who supported the ballot measure, said the state would spend an estimated $834,000 to adjust the 2020 U.S. Census. He said the state would have needed to hire a private consultant for the adjustment, who would contact military personnel and students and ask them about their permanent residencies. In 2011, Secretary of State Kris Kobach reported that the adjustment cost $198,928.
 
Following the 2010 U.S. Census, the state adjusted the population for legislative redistricting. Overall, 15,577 state residents were counted in different counties, and 13,673 people were eliminated from the count. Riley County, Douglas County, and Ellis County saw the largest percentage decreases in population due to the adjustment. Riley County included the U.S. Army’s Fort Riley and Kansas State University. Douglas County included the University of Kansas. Ellis County included Fort Hays State University and North Central Kansas Technical College.


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