Josh Altic

Josh Altic is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

Missouri Medicaid Expansion Initiative certified for the ballot

On May 22, 2020, the Missouri Secretary of State issued a statement certifying the Missouri Medicaid Expansion Initiative for the ballot. This qualified the initiative for the November ballot unless the governor called for it to go on the August ballot by the May 26 deadline. On May 26, Governor Mike Parson (R) announced that the amendment will appear on the August 4 primary election ballot.

The initiative would amend the state constitution to do the following:

  • expand Medicaid eligibility in Missouri to adults who are between the ages of 19 and 65 and whose income is at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, which would effectively expand Medicaid to those with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level under the Affordable Care Act;
  • prohibit any additional restrictions or requirements for the expanded population to qualify for Medicaid coverage than for other populations that qualify for Medicaid coverage; and
  • require the state to seek maximum federal funding of Medicaid expansion.

In Missouri, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 8% of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the eight state congressional districts. Healthcare for Missouri submitted 341,440 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State on May 1, 2020. The secretary of state used a random sample method, which projected enough valid signatures in congressional districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7, to qualify the measure for the ballot. In those six districts, a total of 172,015 valid signatures were required; 258,686 signatures were projected to be valid.

Medicaid is a government program that provides medical insurance to groups of people with income below certain levels and individuals with disabilities. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NFIB v. Sebelius that the federal government could not withhold funds from states that refused to expand Medicaid. The ruling had the practical effect of making Medicaid expansion optional for states. In 2018, the federal government financed 94% of the costs of state Medicaid expansion. For 2020 and subsequent years, the federal government was set to cover 90% of the costs.

Voters in Oklahoma will also decide a Medicaid expansion initiative in November.

As of 2019, a total of 36 states and Washington, D.C., had expanded or voted to expand Medicaid, while 14 states had not.

In 2017, voters in Maine approved a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. The measure was the first time a citizen initiative to expand Medicaid appeared on any statewide ballot.

In November 2018, voters in Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, and Utah decided ballot initiatives concerning Medicaid expansion and the funding of expanded Medicaid coverage. The Idaho and Utah measures were approved by voters and later altered by the states’ legislatures. The measure in Nebraska was approved, and the measure in Montana was defeated. In January 2018, voters in Oregon approved Measure 101, thereby upholding 2017 legislation to provide funding for the state’s portion of costs for expanded Medicaid coverage through a tax on healthcare insurance and the revenue of certain hospitals.

Local California voters approve three and defeat two tax measures on May 5

Voters in Blythe and four special districts within Contra Costa, Mendocino, Plumas, Riverside, and Sonoma counties voted on five different local tax measures on Tuesday. According to unofficial election night results, three were approved, and two were defeated.

  • Voters in the city of Blythe approved an additional 1% sales tax, thereby increasing the total sales tax rate in the city from 7.75% to 8.75% and generating an estimated $1.144 million per year in general fund revenue. It was ahead by 71% to 29%, and it required a simple majority to pass.
  • Voters in Contra Costa County Service Area No. P-2 Zone A (Blackhawk) approved a parcel tax to fund police services. It was ahead by 73% to 27%, and it required a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for approval. The measure authorized a parcel tax of $395 per residential unit, $2,370 per parcel for property designated as commercial/industrial/institutional, and $11,852 per parcel for property designated as commercial/theater.
  • Voters in the Coast Life Support District, a district primarily providing ambulance services and that overlaps parts of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, approved a parcel tax ranging from $61 to $1,220 per year depending on the property type. It was ahead by 81% to 19%, and it required a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for approval.
  • Voters in the Hamilton Branch Fire Protection District defeated a parcel tax measure to increase its annual parcel tax by $175 per parcel by replacing the existing rate of $108 per parcel with a rate of $283 per parcel in order to fund fire protection and emergency medical services. It was behind the 66.67% supermajority requirement with a vote of 64% to 36%.
  • Voters in the Northern Sonoma County Fire Protection District defeated a measure to increase the district’s annual parcel tax rate to between $160 and $240 for residential parcels depending on size and to $0.11 per sq. ft. for non-residential buildings, $54 per building for agricultural structures, and $170 for every vacant parcel or parcel above 20 acres for fire services. It was behind the 66.67% supermajority requirement with a vote of 63% to 37%.

Parcel taxes are taxes unique to California that are based on units or characteristics of property rather than assessed value.

In the March 3 primary, local California voters decided 293 local measures, which was more than double the average of 139 decided at even-year June primaries from 2010 through 2018. Of the 293 local measures, 237 (81%) were bond or tax measures.

  • There were 45 sales tax measures on the March 3 ballot. Twenty-four (53.3%) were approved, and 21 (46.7%) were defeated. From 2014 through 2019, 76% of local sales tax measures were approved.
  • There were 54 parcel tax measures on the March 3 ballot. Nineteen (35.2%) were approved, and 35 (64.8%) were defeated. From 2003 through 2019, 57.5% of local parcel tax measures were approved.
Additional reading:

Wisconsin voters approve Marsy’s Law crime victims constitutional amendment

On April 7, 2020, voters in Wisconsin approved Marsy’s Law—a type of constitutional amendment addressing the rights of crime victims. With 96% of precincts reporting, the measure was ahead by 75% to 25%. The Wisconsin State Legislature referred the constitutional amendment to the ballot on May 15, 2019. Voters in 12 other states have approved Marsy’s Law measures. Marsy’s Law has never been defeated at the ballot. Montana’s 2018 Marsy’s Law measure, however, was overturned by a court ruling, and Kentucky’s 2018 measure is pending a court ruling.

Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., began campaigning for Marsy’s Law in 2008. His sister, Marsy Nicholas, was murdered in 1983. The first Marsy’s Law on the ballot was in California in 2008. The other states that have voted on, and approved, Marsy’s Law are 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). The Kentucky Marsy’s Law has not been enacted pending a court ruling. About $102.26 million was raised for the 12 Marsy’s Law constitutional amendments. Marsy’s Law for All provided $3.99 million in contributions to Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin LLC in support of the Wisconsin Marsy’s Law Amendment.

As passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature, the Marsy’s Law amendment would grant crime victims with certain rights, including a right to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity, and fairness; a right to privacy; a right to be present at all criminal proceedings and hearings; a right to confer with the government prosecutor; and a right to restitution and compensation. Currently, the state constitution grants crime victims with some of these rights, such as a right to restitution.

The organization Marsy’s Law for All advocates for Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment, stating that Marsy’s Law makes crime victims’ rights co-equal with criminal defendants’ rights in state constitutions. The ACLU of Wisconsin opposed the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment, saying victims’ rights and defendants’ rights are not legally equivalent. Whereas defendants’ rights are rights against the state, according to the ACLU, victims’ rights are rights against an individual.

Additional reading:

Gov. DeSantis signs Florida initiative process restrictions into law

The Florida legislature approved a bill April 9 regarding the state’s ballot initiative process. Senate Bill 1794, which Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law the same day, included the following provisions:

  • increases the signature requirement threshold to trigger a review of the initiative petition by the Florida Supreme Court—changing it from 10% to 25% of the total requirement—and requires the threshold be met in half of congressional districts instead of one-fourth of them;
  • requires the Florida Supreme Court to review whether a proposed amendment is “facially invalid under the United States Constitution” in addition to existing requirements for reviewing the ballot title and reviewing the initiative for compliance with the state’s single-subject rule;
  • requires petitioners to pay the actual cost of verifying signatures rather than the existing fee of $0.10 per signature or the actual cost, whichever is less;
  • allows any citizen to challenge the registration of a paid circulator;
  • makes signatures invalid after February 1 of even-numbered years each cycle instead of allowing signatures to remain valid for a period of two years;
  • allows 60 days (instead of 30) for county elections supervisors to verify signatures except within 60 days from the February 1 deadline;
  • requires elections supervisors to reject signatures collected by paid circulators not validly registered at the time the signatures were collected;
  • requires specific statements concerning the impact of the measure on the state budget (negative, positive, or indeterminate) to be included on the ballot;
  • makes exceptions for initiative petition signatures gathered prior to the effective date of the bill (April 8, 2020); and
  • other provisions related to the cost of signature verification, requirements for supervisors to post certain information about signature validity and verification costs, and fiscal impact statements.

The bill was approved along party lines with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The vote was 73-45 in the House and 23-17 in the Senate.

A coalition of organizations—including the League of Women Voters of Florida, ACLU of Florida, Common Cause Florida, Florida AFL-CIO, Florida Conservation Voters, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Organize Florida, Progress Florida, Sierra Club Florida, Southern Poverty Law Center, and The New Florida Majority—sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis asking him to veto the bill. The letter argued, ”Constitutional amendments that pass do so with almost always a higher threshold than elected leaders. Why should we want to limit a citizen’s ability to enact change? SB 1794 does exactly that. In the midst of a global health crisis, any limitation to a citizen’s right to direct democracy seems unjust.”

Speaking of SB 1794, Sen. Dennis Baxley (R) said, “I say not giving proper restraint to how people amend the state constitution is a neglect of our duty to protect that constitution and the election process by which people select people in a democratic republic to go and represent them.”

Four citizen initiatives qualified for the 2020 ballot before the signature verification deadline passed on February 1. Two amendments were referred to the 2020 ballot by the state legislature.

In 2019, the Florida State Legislature passed House Bill 5, which banned pay-per-signature, added paid circulator registration requirements, and other provisions related to fiscal impact statements and deadlines.

Additional reading:

Chandler voters approve Proposition 426

Proposition 426 amended the city’s charter to say that primary, regular, and special elections may be held on election dates authorized by state law. Before the election, the city charter said the municipal primary election shall be held on the 10th Tuesday before the general election. According to election night results, 92% of voters were in favor of the charter amendment.
This change was proposed to make the city charter comply with state law after SB 1154 (2019) was passed moving the state’s primary election to the 1st Tuesday of August before the general election.

Wayne County voters renew Art Institute Authority property tax

Wayne County voters renew Art Institute Authority property tax

According to election night results, 76.7% of Wayne County, Michigan, voters were in favor of renewing a 0.2 mill property tax ($20 per $100,000 in assessed value) until 2031 to provide funding for the Wayne County Art Institute Authority. The tax will generate an estimated $8.5 million in revenue in 2022.

The tax was initially approved in 2012 and was set to expire in December 2021.

Approval rates of local bond and tax measures in California’s March 3 election lowest in at least a decade

On March 3, California voters decided 292 local ballot measures. According to results available Monday evening, at least 111 were approved, at least 146 were defeated, and the remaining measures were too close to call because of the number of ballots left to be processed.

Of the 292 total local measures, 236 (81%) were bond or tax measures:
• 121 local school bond measures (in total, $17.24 billion in local school bonds was proposed)
• 54 parcel tax measures
• 45 sales tax measures
• 7 hotel tax measures
• 5 city or county marijuana tax measures
• 4 city, county, or district bond measures

Other topics included the following:
• 10 measures on housing, zoning, land use, and development
• 10 measures on local elections and campaigns
• 5 measures on the regulation of marijuana

The 292 local measures on the ballot were the most at a primary election since at least 2010. From 2010 through 2018, primary elections were held in June rather than March. There were an average of 139 local measures on primary ballots from 2010 through 2018.

School bond measures

With Monday evening’s election results update, Ballotpedia called all but 19 of the 121 total school bond measures on the March 3 ballot:
• at least 32 (26%) were approved
• at least 70 (58%) were defeated
• 19 remain too close to call with certainty

From 2008 through 2019, the average approval rate for local school bond measures in California was 75%.

In terms of bond revenue, at least $5.511 billion (32%) was approved, at least $10.037 billion (58%) was defeated, and $1.788 billion (10%) could still go either way. In the November 2018 election, there were 151 total school bond measures proposing a total of $15.2 billion, and $14.3 billion (94%) was approved. In 2016, there were 231 local school bonds proposing a total of $31.8 billion, and $28.9 billion (91%) was approved.

Voters also appear to have rejected Proposition 13, a $15 billion statewide bond issue of general obligation bonds for school and college facilities—including $9 billion for preschool and K-12 schools, $4 billion for universities, and $2 billion for community colleges. As of Monday evening’s election results update, the measure was behind by 45.96% (3,250,570 votes) to 54.04% (3,822,718 votes), with about 2.9 million ballots left to be processed.

Local tax measures

Local parcel and sales tax measures were approved at a lower rate than the average over recent election cycles as well.

At least 16 (29.6%) of the local parcel tax measures were approved, at least 31 (57.4%) were defeated, and seven (13%) were too close to call. From 2003 through 2019, 57.5% of local parcel tax measures were approved.

At least 24 (53.3%) of the local sales taxes were approved, at least 19 (42.2%) were defeated, and two (4.4%) were too close to call. From 2014 through 2019, 76% of local sales tax measures were approved.

Additional reading:
California Proposition 13, School and College Facilities Bond (March 2020) 
School bond elections in California
Sales tax in California
Parcel tax elections in California
Hotel taxes in California 
Marijuana taxes in California

Voters in Forsyth County, North Carolina, approve 0.25% sales tax

Voters approved a quarter-cent Forsyth County sales tax increase on Tuesday by a vote of 60% to 40% according to unofficial election night results. The measure will increase the total sales tax rate in the county from 6.75% to 7%.

North Carolina state law does not permit the purpose of a sales tax measure to be printed with the ballot language. The resolution approved by the Forsyth Board of Commissioners to put the measure on the ballot specifies that the revenue would help “fund the educational needs of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system.”

Forsyth County voters rejected a 0.25% sales tax in 2018.

San Francisco voters approved Proposition E

In San Francisco, voters approved four measures on Tuesday. The fifth, Proposition D, is too close to call with certainty, but was ahead 68% to 32% and needs 66.67% to pass.

Proposition E, the City Office Development Limit Initiative, was the only citizen-initiated measure on the ballot. Proposition E was approved by 55% of voters. It required a simple majority to pass. The measure was put on the ballot through a signature petition drive sponsored by Housing Forward San Francisco. The measure limits city office development if the city does not meet annual housing production goals. The allowed office development will be reduced by the percentage of housing units by which the city falls short of goals. The measure also sets the minimum housing production goal in the city at 2,042 units.

Office development was first limited to 950,00 square feet annually in 1986 with the approval of Proposition M. This annual limit established by Proposition M would be further cut by Proposition E if San Francisco does not produce enough housing affordable to specific income levels to meet the goal established by Proposition E.

Voters also approved Propositions A, B, and C. Proposition A was approved by 70.75% of voters and authorized the San Francisco Community College District to issue $845 million in bonds. It required 55% approval. Proposition B authorized the city to issue $628.5 million in bonds to fund emergency services. It required a two-thirds supermajority and was approved by 81% of voters. Proposition C amended the city’s charter to allow for retiree healthcare coverage for certain former employees of the San Francisco Housing Authority. It was approved by 68% of voters and required a simple majority.


On Tuesday, 52.8% of voters in Oklahoma City rejected a proposed 0.125% sales tax to fund city parks. The measure was put on the ballot through a citizen initiative petition drive. It would have increased the total sales tax rate in the city from 8.625% to 8.75%. City officials estimated that the proposed 0.125% tax would have raised $15 million per year in revenue. OKC voters approved a 1% sales tax measure in December 2019 to fund the city’s Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPs 4) plan.

In Tulsa County, voters approved a measure authorizing the sale of alcohol on Sundays. According to election night results, 73% of voters were in favor of the measure. A state law allowing alcohol sales on Sunday in a county if voters approve a proposition such as this one was approved by the state legislature and went into effect in October 2018.,_2020_ballot_measures_in_Oklahoma