Jackie Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell is a state ballot measures staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

Signature deadline for citizen initiatives in Idaho is May 1; two campaigns have suspended signature drives due to coronavirus

Signatures for citizen initiative petitions in Idaho are due on May 1, 2020. To qualify for the November ballot, 55,057 valid signatures are required.

As of March 19, 2020, three citizen initiatives were cleared to gather signatures targeting the 2020 ballot in Idaho.

The Idaho Minimum Wage Increase Initiative was designed to increase the minimum wage in Idaho to $12 per hour by June 2024. Sponsors of the measure, Idahoans for a Fair Wage, announced on March 17 that they were suspending their signature drive. The group reported having collected more than 32,000 signatures.

The Idaho Tax Increases for Education Funding Initiative was designed to increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000 and increase the corporate income tax rate to fund education. Reclaim Idaho, sponsors of the measure, announced on March 18, 2020, that they were suspending their signature drive due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of March 2020, Reclaim Idaho reported having collected more than half of the required signatures.

The Idaho Medical Marijuana Initiative was designed to create a medical marijuana program in Idaho. Sponsors of the measure, Idaho Cannabis Coalition/Legalize Idaho, had planned a tour—called the “Educate and Legalize Idaho” tour—to collect signatures for the measure, but announced that the tour would be postponed until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic. The group has not announced a signature drive suspension.

On March 18, Governor of Idaho Brad Little (R) announced that Idaho was adopting the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House, urging Idahoans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.

Ballotpedia is tracking changes to ballot measure campaign activities, elections, procedures, and policies made in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Ballotpedia is also tracking changes to election dates and procedures; federal, state and local responses; diagnosed or quarantined officials; school closures; and court closures.

One measure is certified to appear on the 2020 ballot in Idaho. The constitutional amendment, referred to the ballot by the state legislature, would remove language in the state constitution that allows the legislature to have between 30 and 35 legislative districts and, instead, require the legislature to consist of 35 districts. Currently, the Idaho Constitution provides that the state may have between 30 and 35 state legislative districts, as provided by statute.

From 1996 to 2018, 36 measures were on the ballot in Idaho, of which, 72% (26 of 36) were approved and 28% (10 of 36) were defeated.

Additional reading:
Federal, state, and local government policy changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
Ballot measure petition deadlines and requirements, 2020
Ballot initiatives filed for the 2020 ballot

So far, Florida residents are set to vote on six constitutional amendments

The Florida Legislature referred two constitutional amendments to the ballot during its 2020 legislative session, which ended on March 13. Five other proposed constitutional amendments had passed one chamber of the state legislature but were not approved in the other chamber before the session adjourned. Also on the Florida 2020 ballot are four citizen-initiated constitutional amendments.

The two amendments referred by the legislature concern property taxes.

House Joint Resolution 877, sponsored by Rep. Sam Killebrew (R-41), would allow a homestead property tax discount to be transferred to the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran. The state House approved the amendment 115-0 with five not voting on March 4, 2020. The state Senate passed the measure unanimously on March 5, 2020.

House Joint Resolution 369, sponsored by Rep. Rick Roth (R-85), would increase the period during which a person may transfer “Save Our Homes” benefits (limitations on homestead property tax assessments) to a new homestead property from two years to three years. The state House approved the amendment unanimously with two Democratic representatives not voting on March 9, 2020. The state Senate approved the amendment unanimously on March 11, 2020. The tax assessment limitations, referred to as Save Our Homes benefits, were established through Amendment 10, a citizen initiative, in 1992. Amendment 10 modified Article VII of the Florida Constitution to limit homestead property valuations to a maximum of 3% annually.

Summaries of the four citizen-initiated amendments on the ballot are as follows:

  • Amendment 1: adds language to state constitution saying that only U.S. citizens can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections
    Amendment 2: increases minimum wage to $15 by 2026
    Amendment 3: establishes a top-two open primary system for state office primary elections
    Amendment 4: requires voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election

A total of 91 measures appeared on the Florida ballot between 1996 and 2018, 75.82% of which were approved and 24.18% were defeated. From 1996 to 2018, an average of between seven and eight measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Florida.


Utah residents set to vote on seven constitutional amendments in November

The Utah Legislature passed three constitutional amendments on Wednesday, bringing the total amendments set to appear on the Utah 2020 ballot to seven. The 2020 legislative session was set to adjourn on Thursday, March 12, 2020. The Legislature also referred four amendments to the ballot during the 2019 legislative session.

Below are summaries of the constitutional amendments set to appear on the 2020 ballot in Utah.

Amendments from 2020 session:

Senate Joint Resolution 3, Legislative Session Start Date Amendment: allows the state legislature to set the January legislative session start date in state statute rather than constitutionally requiring the legislative session to begin on the fourth Monday in January

House Joint Resolution 15, Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment: establishes a state constitutional right to hunt and fish for the people of Utah

Senate Joint Resolution 9, Use Income and Property Tax Revenue to Support Children and Individuals with Disabilities Amendment: allows the Utah State Legislature to use revenue from income taxes and intangible property taxes to support children and individuals with a disability, rather than continuing to limit such tax revenue to support public education and higher education

Amendments from 2019 session:

House Joint Resolution 3, Municipal Water Resources Amendment: specifies the circumstances under which a municipality may commit water resources, supply water outside its boundary, or exchange water resources; revises provisions surrounding municipal water rights

House Joint Resolution 4, Legislator Qualifications Amendment: specifies that certain qualifications of a legislator—such as age— apply as of the time of election or appointment rather than the time a legislator assumes office

House Joint Resolution 8, Remove Slavery as Punishment for a Crime from Constitution Amendment: removes language from the Utah Constitution that allows the use of slavery and involuntary servitude as criminal punishments

Senate Joint Resolution 7, Gender-Neutral Constitutional Language Amendment: removes gendered language in the Utah Constitution and replaces it with gender-neutral language

A total of 53 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Utah between 1996 and 2018. From 1996 to 2018, an average of four measures appeared on the ballot for even-year elections in Utah, of which 86.5% were approved by voters. The number of measures appearing on even-year statewide ballots between 1996 and 2018 ranged from one to seven.

Georgia legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning dedication of tax and fee revenue

The Georgia Legislature voted on Monday to send House Joint Resolution 164 to the November 2020 ballot for voter consideration. The measure would authorize the Georgia Legislature to dedicate certain tax or fee revenue to the public purpose for which the taxes or fees were imposed.

For example, the measure would allow revenues resulting from taxes or fees regarding hazardous wastes to be dedicated to the “investigation, detoxification, removal, and disposal of any hazardous wastes, hazardous constituents, or hazardous substances at sites where corrective action is necessary to mitigate a present or future danger to human health or the environment.”

The Augusta Chronicle reported that dedicating state funds such as Georgia’s Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste trust funds to their intended use was a priority of the amendment’s sponsor, Jay Powell (R), who passed away in November 2019.

Rep. Andrew Welch (R) said, “It would bring a level of accountability to these fees and truth in taxation back to the dedication of these fees.”

This amendment was introduced as House Resolution 164 on February 7, 2019, by Rep. Jay Powell (R-171). On February 20, 2019, the state House passed HR 164 by a vote of 169-1 with ten Representatives excused or not voting. The single no vote came from Republican Representative Matt Gurtler. The amendment was passed in the Senate as a substitute on March 25, 2019, by a vote of 52-0 with four excused.

On March 3, 2020, the House amended and passed the measure by a vote of 164-4 with 12 not voting. The Senate agreed to the House’s amendments and passed the bill on March 9, 2020, certifying it for the November 2020 ballot.

From 1996 to 2018, 81 measures have been on the ballot in Georgia, of which, 84% (68 of 81) were approved and 16% (13 of 81) were defeated.

Additional Reading:
Georgia 2020 ballot measures

Washington Legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning the investment of Family Medical Leave and Long-Term Care Accounts

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 would allow funds in the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account to be invested as provided by law. The amendment is the first measure certified to appear on the statewide ballot in Washington this November.

Currently, the Washington Constitution prohibits the state from investing funds into stocks or other methods of investment, limiting investment capabilities of the state to government and corporate bonds and certificates of deposit. Some other funds have been made exempt from that constitutional restriction, including the following:

  1. public pension and retirements funds;
  2. industrial insurance trust funds; and
  3. funds that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.

In Washington, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds (66.67%) vote in each chamber of the Washington State Legislature during one legislative session.

Senate Joint Resolution 8212 was sponsored by Republican Senators John Braun and Mark Schoesler and Democratic Senators Steve Conway and Mark Mullet. The resolution was introduced on January 13, 2020. It passed in the Senate on February 19, 2020, by a vote of 45-3 with one Senator excused. The measure passed in the House on March 6, 2020, by a vote of 96-1 with one Representative excused. The four no votes the amendment received in the state legislature came from Representative Frank Chopp (D) and Senators Bob Hasegawa (D), Doug Ericksen (R), and Mike Padden (R).

The Washington State Legislature may refer constitutional amendments or state statutes to the ballot during the 2020 legislative session, which is set to run through March 12, 2020. Citizens may collect signatures to place proposed laws on the 2020 ballot as Initiatives to the People (ITPs), for which 259,622 valid signatures are required by July 2, 2020. Veto referendums targeting the repeal of bills passed in the 2020 legislature can also qualify for the ballot through signature petition drives.

A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even years between 2000 and 2018, of which, 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.

Voters in South Dakota to decide on legalizing sports betting in Deadwood this fall

South Dakota legislators passed Senate Joint Resolution 501 on March 3, certifying it for the November 2020 ballot.

The amendment would legalize sports betting (wagering on the outcome of athletic sporting events) within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota. Currently, in Deadwood— a resort and gaming town— blackjack, craps, keno, poker, roulette, and slot machines are legalized. Like other authorized forms of gambling within the city, net municipal proceeds would be dedicated to the historic restoration and preservation of Deadwood.

Senate Joint Resolution 501 was passed in the Senate on February 11, 2020, in a vote of 24-10, with one excused. Of the 30 Republicans in the Senate, 20 voted in favor, nine voted against, and one was excused. Among the five Senate Democrats, four Democrats voted in favor and one voted against. It was sent to the state House where it passed on March 3, 2020, by a vote of 36-27 with seven representatives excused. Among Democrats, seven were in favor and three were against. Among Republicans, 29 were in favor and 24 were against.

Sports betting was banned at the federal level under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) until a 2018 United States Supreme Court decision, Murphy v. NCAA, overturned that federal ban and allowed states to legalize sports betting. As of March 2020, 13 states had legalized sports betting. Voters in Arkansas approved legalizing sports betting through Issue 4 in 2018. Voters in Colorado approved sports betting through Proposition DD in 2019. In certain other states, legislative bills to legalize sports betting have been introduced.

Two other ballot measures are certified to appear on the November ballot in South Dakota. Initiated Measure 26 would provide for a medical marijuana program in South Dakota. Constitutional Amendment A would legalize recreational use of marijuana and require the legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022.

A total of 74 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in South Dakota from 1996 through 2018, of which, about 39% (29 of 74) were approved and about 61% (45 of 74) were defeated.

Additional reading:

Idaho voters to decide whether to require state legislature to consist of 35 districts

The Idaho State Legislature passed House Joint Resolution 4 by a vote of 65-3 in the House and 31-4 in the Senate. The amendment would remove language in the state constitution that allows the legislature to have between 30 and 35 districts and, instead, require the state to have 35 state legislative districts.

Currently, the Idaho State Senate contains 35 Senators, who are elected from 35 districts. The Idaho House of Representatives consists of 70 Representatives, who are elected from the same 35 districts, with two being elected from each constituency.

House Speaker Scott Bedke (R), who sponsored the resolution, said, “[Since the 1980s], we have had 35 legislative districts, and it seems to suit us well. Yet your Constitution says you can have as few as 30. So why would we want to change this? I think the reasoning is as Idaho grows, then our citizens are better served with more legislative districts than fewer. It’s certainly something that we’re all used to for the last 30-plus years. But our Constitution allows for fewer legislative districts, and I think we’d be well-served going forward pegging that at 35.”

The Idaho Legislature has the power to place constitutional amendments on the ballot when both houses of the legislature approve the amendment by a two-thirds majority vote. Once on the ballot, the amendment must be approved by a simple majority of the electors. The 2020 state legislative session is expected to run from January 6 to March 27, 2020.

Idaho residents may qualify measures for the ballot through initiative petition. For 2020, initiative supporters must gather 55,057 valid signatures and must submit signatures no later than May 1, 2020, in order to qualify initiatives for the ballot. Three citizen initiatives have been filed in Idaho targeting the 2020 ballot: one measure would incrementally raise the state minimum wage to $12 by 2024, one measure would create a medical marijuana program, and the third would increase the income tax rate for individuals with incomes above $250,000 and create the Quality Education Fund.

From 1996 to 2018, 36 measures have been on the ballot in Idaho, of which, 72% (26 of 36) were approved and 28% (10 of 36) were defeated.

Additional reading:

Proponents submit signatures for a Colorado initiative to ban abortion after 22 weeks gestation

Due Date Too Late, sponsors of Colorado Initiative 120, reported submitting more than 137,000 signatures on Wednesday to qualify the measure for the November ballot. To qualify, 124,632 valid signatures are required.

The initiative would prohibit abortions after a fetus reaches 22 weeks gestational age. Colorado is one of seven states (and Washington, D.C.) that do not restrict abortion after a certain point in a pregnancy. Under the initiative, performing a prohibited abortion would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine except in cases where an abortion is required immediately to save the life of the pregnant woman. Medical professionals who are found to have performed a prohibited abortion would have their medical licenses suspended by the Colorado Medical Board for at least three years. A woman who has a prohibited abortion could not be charged with a crime under the initiative.

Measure sponsor Erin Behrens of Due Date Too Late said, “We are going to put a very reasonable limit of 22 weeks, which is about five months into pregnancy. And we think that this reasonable limit will pass overwhelmingly in Colorado, and we will finally be brought into the 21st century. We will finally be among all the other states that have reasonable limits, and we will finally not be the late-term abortion capitol of the United States.”

Dr. Warren Hern of the Boulder Abortion Clinic said, “These people have no concern for the health and welfare of the women we are helping. This is anti-abortion madness carried to a logical extreme.”

Ballotpedia identified one committee registered to support the initiative: Coalition for Women and Children. According to reports that covered through December 31, 2019, the committee reported $39,696 in contributions and $5,905 in cash expenditures. The largest donor the support committee was Donald Hood, who gave $10,000. Ballotpedia identified one committee registered to oppose the initiative: Abortion Access for All. The committee reported contributions of $30,000 (all from the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado) and expenditures of $60.

Four measures are currently certified to appear on the November ballot in Colorado:

  • An initiative to amend the Colorado Constitution to state that only a citizen of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections, instead of the existing language that says every citizen of the U.S. can vote;
  • An initiative to reintroduce gray wolves on public lands;
  • A referendum on whether or not to join Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact; and
  • A bond issue for transportation funding.

A total of 108 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during the 20-year period between 1999 through 2019. Forty-two percent of the total 108 measures were approved.

Additional reading:
Colorado 22-Week Abortion Ban Initiative (2020)
Colorado 2020 ballot measures

Alabama House passes constitutional amendment to allow people accused of Class A felonies to be held without bail

The Alabama House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 81 on Thursday. If passed by the Senate, the measure would appear on the 2020 ballot for voter approval or rejection.

The amendment, referred to as Aniah’s Law, would allow people accused of Class A felonies to be held without bail “if no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to the accused, the public, or both, ensure the presence of the accused at trial, or ensure the integrity of the judicial process.” Class A felonies in Chapter 6 of Title 13A include murder, kidnapping, rape, human trafficking, elder abuse, and domestic violence.

The constitution currently states that “all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great; and that excessive bail shall not in any case be required.”

In Alabama, a 60% supermajority vote is required in each chamber of the Alabama State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

The amendment was introduced as House Bill 81 on February 4, 2020, by Rep. Chip Brown (R-105). On February 27, the Alabama House of Representatives approved HB 81 in a vote of 104-0.

Representative Brown said, “Too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back. Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem.”

The amendment is named after Aniah Blanchard, who was allegedly murdered by Ibraheem Yazeed. Yazeed, at the time, was out on bond after being arrested for kidnapping and attempted murder.

A total of 95 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama from 1998 to 2018. An average of eight measures appeared on the ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years. 81% (72 of 89) of the total number of measures that appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years were approved, and 19% (17 of 89) were defeated.

The legislature referred five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot during the 2019 legislative session. Four of the measures will appear on the general election ballot. Amendment 1, which concerns the state board of education, will appear on the March 3 primary election ballot.

Click here to learn about Alabama’s 2020 ballot measures

Additional reading:
Alabama Conditions for Detention Without Bail Amendment (2020) 

Alabama voters to decide whether to change education board from elected to appointed on March 3

Voters in Alabama will decide Amendment 1 on March 3. The constitutional amendment would rename the State Board of Education as the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education. The amendment would change the board from being elected by voters to being appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Under the amendment, the name of the State Superintendent of Education would be changed to the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education. Amendment 1 would also direct the governor to ensure that members of the commission “reflect the geographical, gender, and racial diversity of the students enrolled in public K-12 education in the state.”

Under the amendment, the commission would be tasked with adopting “course of study standards that ensure nationwide consistency and the seamless transfer of students from within and outside of the state, in lieu of common core.”

Currently, the Alabama State Board of Education is an elected executive agency of the Alabama state government, responsible for managing the state’s public K-12 education. The board’s mission is “To provide a state system of education which is committed to academic excellence and which provides education of the highest quality to all Alabama students, preparing them for the 21st century.” The board is responsible for appointing a superintendent of education and adopting courses of study and learning standards for each subject area, including what textbooks will be used. The board also approves university and college teacher preparation and certification programs.

In 26 of 50 states, members of the state board of education are appointed by the governor and approved by either the state senate, the full state legislature, or, in the case of New Hampshire, the Executive Council. In six other states, members are appointed by the governor but not subject to confirmation. Six states including Alabama use partisan elections. Two states and Washington, D.C. use nonpartisan elections. Seven states use a combination of appointment and election. Minnesota and Wisconsin do not have a state board of education.

Governor Kay Ivey (R) supports Amendment 1. Ivey said, “Every Alabama voter will now have a chance to drastically change the structure for education governance in our state. It is time that bureaucracy no longer stands in the way of our educators, and most importantly, our students. Our current system is simply not working. Statistics prove that. However, through this bold change, I am confident that Alabama will have a system that will work more effectively for our students and educators.”

Ballotpedia identified one committee registered to support Amendment 1: Yes for the Best Education Committee. The committee reported $100,000 in contributions, all from the Alabama Farmers Federation. The committee reported $98,000 in expenditures. Ballotpedia did not identify committees registered to oppose the amendment.

Opponents of the measure include the Alabama Republican Party and the Eagle Forum of Alabama. Eagle Forum of Alabama Executive Director Becky Gerritson said, “Amendment 1 will take away the right of Alabama voters to vote for their State Board Education representative. Amendment 1 has bait and switch language that is deceiving, such as ‘in lieu of common core’. One will notice that ‘common core’ is in lowercase which refers to something in generalized terms, and not in specific terms such as Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This is a play on words, yet very deceiving. The authors of this Amendment did not intend to get rid of Common Core State Standards, yet are telling the public Amendment 1 will get rid of them.”

Many board members shared their viewpoints on Amendment 1. Board member Tracie West said, “Just because a board is appointed does not mean it’s going to be successful and effective. Just because a board is elected does not mean that it is going to be successful and effective. I think that there are many other factors involved other than just being an appointed board.” Board member Dr. Wayne Reynolds said he would take legal action if Amendment 1 is approved. Reynolds said, “If I’m a constitutional officer elected to serve through 2022, and there’s a constitutional amendment that says I’m removed, and the Governor chooses not to appoint me, that is a point that I would litigate.”

Mason-Dixon Polling Strategy conducted a poll of 625 registered voters from February 4-6, 2020, asking respondents how they would vote on Amendment 1 if the election were held that day. 41% of respondents said they would vote no to reject the measure, 38% said they would vote yes to approve it, and 28% said they were undecided.

From 1996 through 2018, the state legislature referred 95 constitutional amendments to the ballot. All but six of the amendments appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years. Of the 89 measures that appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years, voters approved 81% (72 of 89) of the amendments and rejected the other 19% (17 of 89).

To learn more about the amendment and read statements from board members, click here.