Author

Josh Altic

Josh Altic is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at josh.altic@ballotpedia.org

Early voting for October 8 bond issues in Cary, North Carolina and other local elections begins Wednesday

During the 2019 election cycle, Ballotpedia is providing North Carolina voters with a comprehensive statewide sample ballot. Our coverage includes North Carolina elections in 503 cities, towns, and villages, nine school districts, and 17 special districts.
 
Cary, North Carolina—the state’s seventh-largest town— is one of twelve municipalities in the state holding nonpartisan general elections on October 8 and is the only city in the state with October local ballot measures identified by Ballotpedia. October 8 elections in other municipalities include nonpartisan general elections, nonpartisan primaries, and partisan primary runoff elections if requested by the primary runner up.
 
Cary is holding general elections for mayor and three town council seats on October 8 with a runoff election scheduled for November 5, 2019. Cary voters will also decide two bond issues totaling $225 million: $112 million for parks and recreation and $113 million for transportation.
 
Early voting for this October 8 election runs from September 18 through October 4. Voters can also request a mail-in ballot through October 1. Voting centers will be open for the election on October 8 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
 
North Carolina holds its statewide elections in even-numbered years, but the majority of local elections to choose local governing officials—such as mayors and city council members—are held during odd-numbered years to alternate with the statewide races.
 
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Potential 2020 Florida initiatives: which have made progress?

Proponents of seven citizen initiatives in Florida have submitted enough valid signatures to trigger a ballot language review by the state supreme court. Sponsors must submit 76,632 valid signatures (10% of the number of signatures required statewide coming from at least seven of Florida’s congressional districts) to trigger a ballot language review by the state supreme court concerning whether or not the measure complies with the single-subject rule and whether or not the ballot title and summary are appropriate.
 
Proponents must submit a total of 766,200 valid signatures to qualify initiatives for the 2020 ballot. Signatures must be verified by February 1, 2020. Since state law gives the secretary of state 30 days to verify signatures, petitioners need to submit signatures on or before January 1, 2020, to guarantee that an initiative qualifies for the ballot in 2020.
 
Florida also has a signature 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. Petitions are allowed to circulate an initiative for an indefinite period of time, but signatures are valid for a two-year period of time; therefore, proponents must collect all of their signatures for verification within a two-year period.
 
One measure, Initiative #18-14 (designed to specify that only U.S. citizens can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections), has more than the required number of total statewide valid signatures but has not yet officially met the distribution requirement in each district and county. Proponents of the measure reported submitting more than 1.5 million signatures in July.
 
The list below shows which initiatives have enough signatures to trigger a ballot language review and how many signatures are currently valid statewide:
 
 
An additional 11 measures have been filed in 2018 and 2019 targeting the 2020 ballot in Florida, but proponents have not yet submitted enough valid signatures to trigger the supreme court ballot language review. Initiative #19-11, sponsored by Make It Legal Florida, was the most recent filed initiative and would legalize recreational marijuana. It was approved for signature gathering on September 9, 2019.
 
A total of 91 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Florida between 1996 and 2018, with an average of between seven and eight measures appearing on the ballot during each even-numbered year. Between 1996 and 2018, 75.82% (69 of 91) of statewide measures were approved by voters and 24.18% (22 of 91) were defeated.


Fresno court upholds supermajority requirement for citizen-initiated special taxes, says issue could be decided by state supreme court

On September 5, 2019, Judge Kimberly Gaab ruled that Fresno Measure P was defeated because it required a two-thirds vote for approval. Gaab had previously stated that the cases surrounding this issue were likely to be decided by the California Supreme Court, superseding her decision. Measure P was designed to enact a 0.375% sales tax for 30 years to fund city parks, recreation, streets, and arts. It was put on the ballot by a citizen initiative and received approval from 52% of voters in 2018.
 
After the election, the city certified the measure as defeated. The group Fresno Building Healthy Communities filed a lawsuit against the city on February 1, 2019, arguing that because Measure P was a citizen initiative, it did not need to meet the supermajority requirement. The lawsuit argued based on a previous state supreme court ruling differentiating election date timing requirements for citizen initiatives from those for measures referred by the local lawmakers. It stated that the supermajority requirement in the state constitution applied to referred measures but not to citizen-initiated ones. The office of the Fresno City Attorney also asked the Fresno County Superior Court to determine the correct vote requirement for Measure P, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association intervened in the case, arguing that a two-thirds supermajority was required.
 
Judge Gaab’s ruling stated, “The two-thirds vote requirement is not placed on the ‘local government.’ Rather, proposed special taxes must be ‘submitted to the electorate,’ which must approve the proposals by a two-thirds vote. Since local government does not approve special tax proposals, it is erroneous to conclude that the two-thirds vote requirement in article XIII C, section 2, subdivision (d) applies only to a ‘local government.’ Once the initiative is submitted to the voters, it is incumbent upon to the voters to approve it by a two-thirds vote, or otherwise reject it.” Gaab also argued that the ruling in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland upon which the plaintiffs’ arguments were based differentiated between the election date issue and the supermajority requirement issue.
 
California voters approved Proposition 218 in 1996. The proposition included the requirement that local governments may only enact, extend, or increase a special tax with a two-thirds supermajority vote of the electorate. Following the passage of Proposition 218, the two-thirds supermajority vote requirement was applied to legislative referrals and citizen initiatives.
 
In August 2017, however, the California Supreme Court categorized taxes imposed by citizen initiatives as separate from taxes imposed by local governments in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland. This ruling brought the supermajority vote requirement into question for special taxes proposed through citizen initiatives.
 
In 2018, eight local citizen initiatives in California proposing special taxes were approved by more than a simple majority but less than a two-thirds supermajority vote. Local officials declared two of the measures to be defeated based on the two-thirds supermajority requirement. The other six measures were certified as approved. In July 2019, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ruled a different direction than Judge Gaab, deciding that the two San Francisco tax measures were properly certified as approved with 50.9% approval and 61.3% approval, respectively.
 


Campaign finance reports published for Colorado Proposition CC

Colorado Proposition CC on the 2019 ballot would allow the state to retain excess revenue it is currently required to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) to provide funding for transportation and education.
 
One committee is registered to support Proposition CC: the Great Education Colorado Issue Committee. The support campaign has reported $51,040 in contributions and $12,773 in expenditures so far. Daniel Ritchie, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Denver, contributed $50,000 to the support campaign.
 
Two committees are registered to oppose Proposition CC. Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee has reported $293,854.71 in in-kind contributions, all of which came from Americans for Prosperity. Citizens Against CC had not yet reported campaign finance activity.
 
The reports covered through August 28, 2019. The deadline for the next scheduled reports is September 16, 2019.
 
Also on the 2019 ballot in Colorado is Proposition DD, which would authorize sports betting in Colorado and authorize the legislature to levy a tax of 10% on those conducting sports betting operations. Ballotpedia did not identify any committees registered to support Proposition DD.
 
One committee is registered to oppose Proposition DD: Coloradans for Climate Justice. The committee had not reported any campaign finance activity.
 
Both propositions were referred to the ballot by the state legislature. In 2018, the legislature referred six measures to the ballot in the form of constitutional amendments. Campaigns supporting those measures raised funds ranging from under $5,000 to over $5.8 million in the case of Amendments Y and Z designed to create independent redistricting commissions.
 
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A handful of South Dakota voters once decided school start dates for the entire state; now local boards or local voters choose

In 1985, by a margin of 282 votes (0.1%), South Dakota voters approved a citizen initiative—Initiative 2—requiring public schools to start the school year after Labor Day.
 
In 1993, the state legislature altered Initiative 2 and repealed the requirement that the school year start no earlier than the first Tuesday after the first Monday in September. The 1993 law allowed local school boards to determine school year start dates. The 1993 legislation also authorized a local citizen signature petition process to put the school year start date decision before voters instead of the local school board. The petition process authorized by the 1993 law was used in Sioux Falls in 2015, and 52% of city voters approved a school start date after Labor Day.
 
Voters in North Dakota revisited the topic in 2014 and rejected an initiative that would have required public school to start after Labor Day, 55.6% to 44.4%.
 
North Dakota was, along with South Dakota, the only state to feature a statewide ballot measure determining the state’s school start date. Forty states allow local school districts to decide school start dates or the start date is determined regionally. Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia mandate that school starts after Labor Day statewide. The other seven states mandate that school cannot start earlier than a specific day in August.
 
In April 2019, Maryland legislators passed and then overturned a gubernatorial veto on Senate Bill 128 to allow local school boards to control school start dates. Previously, the first day of school had to be after Labor Day.
 
 
Background on legislative alteration:
 
South Dakota is one of 11 states (out of 21 with a process for initiated state statutes) that have no restrictions on how soon or with what majority state legislators can repeal or amend citizen initiatives.
 
From 2010 through 2018, 97 initiated state statutes and two initiated ordinances in D.C. were approved by voters. Of these 99 total initiatives from 2010 through 2018, 28 were legislatively altered as of April 2019. From 2010 through 2018, South Dakota voters approved five initiated state statutes. Of those, two—both 2016 initiatives—were legislatively altered.


Colorado voters to consider the national popular vote compact in 2020 through first successful Colorado veto referendum petition since 1932

On Thursday, the secretary of state certified the Colorado National Popular Vote veto referendum for the November 2020 ballot. Voters will decide whether they want to give Colorado’s nine electoral votes to the presidential candidate that receives the most votes nationwide or continue to give them to the candidate that wins the most votes in Colorado. It will be the first veto referendum to appear before Colorado voters since 1932.
 
State Sen. Mike Foote (D-17) and Reps. Emily Sirota (D-9) and Jennifer Arndt (D-53) sponsored Senate Bill 42—the legislation adding Colorado to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). SB 42 passed in the legislature along party lines, with all yes votes coming from Democrats and all Republicans voting against it. Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed the bill into law on March 15, 2019.
 
Veto referendum sponsors—opponents of SB 42—reported submitting over 227,000 signatures to the secretary of state on the August 1 deadline, more than the 124,632 valid signatures needed. SB 42 was suspended until voters decide the issue on November 3, 2020.
 
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is a compact to award member states’ presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. The NPVIC would go into effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college votes adopt the legislation. As of August 1, 2019, 15 states and Washington, D.C., together representing 196 electoral votes, had joined the NPVIC.
 
Most states use a winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes—a candidate who receives 51 percent of the popular vote in a state would receive 100 percent of that state’s electoral votes. In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election with 304 electoral votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 227 electoral votes. Clinton won the national popular vote with 65.84 million votes compared to Trump’s 62.98 million votes. The 2016 election was not the only instance in which the winner of the electoral college did not receive the most popular votes; it happened in five of the 58 presidential elections in U.S. history.
 
Coloradans Vote sponsored the referendum position and is leading the campaign in support of a vote against joining the NPVIC. The group argued that “demanding Colorado’s electors cast their votes this way is theft of our votes for president and gives them to more populated areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. [The current Electoral College system] ensures that the minority always has a voice by allowing smaller, less populated states to have a more proportionate voice in electing our president.”
 
Colorado National Popular Vote (Colorado NPV) is campaigning in support of joining the NPVIC and hopes voters will approve Senate Bill 42. In a statement to Ballotpedia, Co-Chair of Colorado NPV Sylvia Bernstein said, “The Electoral College system has resulted in 5 out of 45 American presidents not winning the popular vote. This does not fairly reflect the will of the voters and is harmful to a modern democracy … We believe every vote by every American for the President should count equally, no matter where you live.”
 
In addition to Colorado, three other states joined the NPVIC in 2019: Delaware, New Mexico, and Oregon. The first state to join was Maryland in 2007. Colorado is a Democratic trifecta. Thirteen of the 15 states to join the NPVIC and Washington, D.C., were controlled by Democratic trifectas at the time. Two were controlled by divided governments.
 
From 1912 to 1932, 13 veto referendums were on the ballot in Colorado, and none have been on the ballot since. Of the 13 referendum efforts, 10 were successful in overturning the targeted legislation. The targeted legislation was upheld by voters on three occasions.
 
Nation-wide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums on the ballot were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California(48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).
 


$1.7 million raised by campaigns for and against Phoenix pension and light rail initiatives ahead of Aug. 27 special election

On August 27, Phoenix voters will decide Proposition 105 and Proposition 106 in a special election.
 
If approved, Proposition 105 would end construction of light rail extensions and redirect funds to infrastructure improvements in Phoenix. Building a Better Phoenix sponsored the initiative and argued, “Phoenix taxpayers are wasting BILLIONS on light rail expansion at the expense of other critical infrastructure. This is money that can be used to fix our streets and sidewalks, expand bus and dial-a-ride service, improve lighting and address other infrastructure improvements.” The Building a Better Phoenix committee reported $460,000 in cash contributions, $29,000 in in-kind contributions, and $394,000 in cash expenditures through August 10 (the last day covered by pre-election campaign finance reports). Top donors to the campaign were Mel Martin, Chris Hinkson, Rachel Palopoli, and Scot Mussi.
 
If approved, Proposition 106 would do the following:
  • require annual assessments of the city’s pension debt,
  • limit budget growth if pensions are not 90% funded,
  • earmark revenue over the budget limit to paying down pension debt, and
  • require city officials to reimburse the city for pension benefit employer contributions.
Responsible Budgets Inc. sponsored Proposition 106. Councilmember Sal DiCiccio (District 6) argued, “The City of Phoenix owes $4.4 BILLION on our pensions! Responsible Budgets takes the first steps to addressing Phoenix’s long term funding deficit[.]” The committee reported $197,000 in cash contributions, $101,000 in in-kind contributions, and $298,000 in cash expenditures. Top donors included Pass the Balanced Budget Amendment, Morning in America, and Chuck Warren.
 
Opponents of the initiatives joined to form the Invest in PHX, No on 105 and 106 campaign. Concerning Proposition 105, the campaign argued, “Prop 105 stops all light rail construction and kills light rail plans already approved by voters three times. … It also sends billions in federal dollars to cities in other states.” Concerning Proposition 106, the campaign argued, “Prop 106 is dangerous, and would slash access to critical city services like parks, libraries, senior centers, and support for those experiencing homelessness, just as Phoenix emerges from the worst recession in generations.” The top donors to the Invest in PHX committee were Devil’s Advocate, We Build Arizona, and Greater Phoenix Leadership, Inc.
 
Both measures are citizen initiatives that required 20,510 signatures from registered city voters to qualify for the ballot. In Phoenix, initiative petition signatures must equal 15 percent of the voters who voted in the previous mayoral election.
 


Proponents of 2020 California split-roll property tax initiative start over with revised version

In California, Schools & Communities First announced that it would file a new version of an initiative to require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value. Currently, Proposition 13 (1978) requires the taxable value of residential, commercial, and industrial properties to be based on the property’s purchase price, with an annual adjustment equal to the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower. The change was estimated to provide $6.5 billion to $10.5 billion in additional revenue. Both the version of the initiative that has already qualified for the 2020 ballot and the refiled version would allocate revenue from the increased commercial and industrial property taxes to local community college and school districts and to local governments.
 
In 2018, proponents spent $3.5 million to qualify their initiative for the 2020 ballot after initially targeting the 2018 ballot. They filed a new version of the initiative on August 13, however, and announced they would be focusing on a new signature petition drive to put the revised version on the ballot.
 
Tyler Law, a spokesperson for Schools & Communities First, said that the campaign would not officially withdraw the currently qualified initiative from the ballot until the refiled initiative qualifies. Law also said of the new effort, “The committee’s got the money. We’re going to get it on the ballot.”
 
What’s different about the new initiative?
 
  • The qualified initiative would provide an exception from reassessment under the new rules for businesses with property value up to $2 million. The revised version would increase that exception threshold to $3 million.
  • Both versions provide a full property tax exemption for businesses with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees. The new initiative would add additional requirements for a business to qualify for the exemption:
    • independently owned and operated;
    • located in California;
    • owned by California residents; and
    • no major statewide influence on its industry.
  • Both initiatives allocate a portion of revenue to a fund for community college and local school districts, with the fund distributed to schools based on state formulas. The new initiative, however, specifies that 11% of the school fund would go to community colleges, and 89% would go to public schools, charter schools, and county education offices. It would also require a minimum of $100 per full-time student (adjusted annually based on revenue) for each community college and school.
  • The currently qualified initiative would go into effect on January 1, 2020. The new version would go into effect on January 1, 2022, and would phase in the reassessment rules over up to three years for property at least 50% occupied by small businesses.
 
Another difference between the two initiatives is the signature requirement for qualifying them for the ballot. Based on the low turnout of 2014, the currently qualified initiative required 585,407 valid signatures. Proponents spent $3.5 million to collect 855,623 signatures, with 661,306 of them deemed valid. The revised initiative will need to qualify for the ballot according to requirements determined by turnout at the 2018 election. This means they’ll need 997,139 valid signatures, which is the largest initiative signature requirement in California’s history.
 
Ballotpedia’s aggregation of polling on the initiative that has qualified for the ballot showed support for the measure ranging from 46% to 56%, with an average of 51% and the most recent poll showing 54% approval.
 
Law said, “For forty years, California’s novel approach to taxing commercial and industrial property has starved funding for schools and local communities, disadvantaged small and startup businesses, and exacerbated our housing crisis.” Explaining the revised initiative effort, he said, “[A] robust statewide signature gathering organization began prior to the 2018 election, but the ultimate submission and qualification process placed the initiative on the 2020 ballot. As a result, we are refiling the initiative to substantively strengthen the measure, including expansive new small business tax relief, and widen the path to victory in November 2020.”
 
In response to the new initiative, California Business Roundtable President Rob Lapsley said, “This is just another, equally flawed measure aimed at dismantling Proposition 13. Proponents should at least withdraw their existing measure, which they now acknowledge is fatally flawed. However, there are no tweaks or amendments that can be made to this split roll measure that will prevent it from being a major, multi-billion-dollar tax on all Californians in the form of higher prices on everything we buy – from groceries and gasoline to diapers and day care.” Lapsley is the co-chair of Californians to Stop Higher Property Taxes, the committee registered to oppose the qualified initiative.
 
 


Judge dismisses GOP petition challenge, leaving the Tucson sanctuary city initiative on the November ballot

On Friday, Pima County Superior Court Judge Douglas Metcalf rejected a lawsuit challenging the initiative signature petition for Tucson’s sanctuary city initiative. The ruling means the initiative will remain on the city’s November 5 ballot after being officially certified on August 6. If the initiative is approved, Tucson would become the first sanctuary city in Arizona.
 
The initiative would include in city code a declaration of the city’s sanctuary status and add a new section that includes provisions to:
 
  • restrict law enforcement officers from actions to determine a person’s immigration status under certain conditions;
  • prohibit officers from contacting federal law enforcement agencies to determine a person’s immigration status; and
  • prohibit city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, among other policies.
 
The group Tucson Families Free and Together submitted about 18,000 signatures for the initiative on July 3, 2019. They needed to collect 9,241 valid signatures by July 5 to qualify the initiative for the November general election ballot. Through a random sampling of 871 signatures, the Pima County Recorder found that a projected 71.8% of the submitted signatures were valid. This sent the initiative to the city council, which had two options: (1) approve the initiative, enacting it into law without an election, or (2) put it on the ballot.
 
Three Tucson voters, assisted by the Pima County Republican Party, filed a legal challenge against the sufficiency of the initiative petition. The lawsuit argued that the signature requirement calculated by the city clerk for the initiative of 9,241 was too low and that, according to state law, the requirement should be 12,821. The lawsuit also argued that the Pima County Recorder “only conducted a cursory review of the signatures submitted by the Petitioners, failed to satisfy his statutorily defined duties, and only disqualified 798 signatures despite thousands of facially invalid signatures.” Judge Metcalf rejected the arguments and confirmed that the measure had been properly certified for the ballot.


Tucson sanctuary city initiative officially certified for the November 2019 ballot

The Tucson City Council voted Tuesday to put an initiative on the November 2019 ballot that would enact sanctuary city policies in the city’s code.
 
If the mayor and city council had approved the measure, it would have become law without an election.
 
If the initiative is approved, Tucson would become the first sanctuary city in Arizona.
 
The initiative would include in city code a declaration of the city’s sanctuary status and add the following provisions:
  • restricting law enforcement officers from actions to determine a person’s immigration status under certain conditions;
  • prohibiting officers from contacting federal law enforcement agencies to determine a person’s immigration status;
  • and prohibiting city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, among other policies.
 
The group Tucson Families Free and Together submitted about 18,000 signatures on July 3, 2019. They needed to collect 9,241 valid signatures by July 5, 2019, to qualify the initiative for the November general election ballot. Through a random sampling of 871 signatures, the Pima County Recorder found that a projected 71.8% of the submitted signatures were valid. This sent the initiative to the city council, which had two options: approve the initiative and enact it into law without an election, or send it to the voters.
 
Tucson mayoral candidates Randi Dorman (D), Regina Romero (D), Steve Farley (D), and Ed Ackerley (I) have announced their opposition to the initiative. U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (R) and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly (D) also stated that they oppose the measure.
 
Three Tucson voters, assisted by the Pima County Republican Party, filed a legal challenge against the sufficiency of the initiative petition based on the number of valid signatures required and the percentage of submitted signatures counted as valid.
 
Ballotpedia’s August 2017 review of municipal immigration policies found that 32 of the nation’s 100 largest cities by population self-identified as sanctuary cities or maintained sanctuary policies. As of 2017, 30 of the 32 cities identified as sanctuary jurisdictions had Democratic mayors. The other two had Republican mayors.
 


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