Josh Altic

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

Washington Referendum 88 on affirmative action too close to call as of Wednesday morning

Washington Referendum 88 was too close to call as of Wednesday morning, with ballots counted so far split 48.2% in favor of Initiative 1000 and 51.8% opposed. The measure was behind by about 20,000 votes and an estimated 332,000 ballots were left to be counted. The results must be certified by December 5.
The measure would expressly allow the state to implement affirmative action policies without the use of preferential treatment or quotas (as defined in I-1000) in public employment, education, and contracting. Initiative 1000 was qualified through a signature petition drive and then passed by the state legislature before being forced to the ballot by opponents through Referendum 88.
Washington Initiative 200, which voters approved in 1998, prohibited public institutions in the state from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the areas of public education, public employment, and public contracting. Initiative 200 did not define preferential treatment.
The measure took a complex and unusual route to get before voters. Referendum 88 was one of two statewide citizen-initiated measures on the ballot in the country this year and was the only veto referendum—a petition effort targeting the repeal of a recently passed law. What’s more, it was a veto referendum seeking the repeal of an indirect initiative that was approved by the legislature instead of going to the ballot. This situation has happened two times out of 38 indirect initiatives in Washington’s history.
Proponents of I-1000 first collected signatures to qualify the measure to go before the legislature and potentially on to the ballot. Then the legislature approved the initiative, precluding an election on it. Finally, opponents of I-1000 collected signatures to force the issue before voters in the hopes they would reject it.
Since 1914, Washington voters have decided 37 statewide veto referendum measures. The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in 2012. Voters repealed targeted bills in 81% of Washington veto referendums (30 of 37).

New York City voters approved ranked-choice voting for city primaries, will be largest jurisdiction in the U.S. to use RCV

According to unofficial election night results, about 73% of New York City voters approved Question 1 on Tuesday. The measure makes New York City the most populous jurisdiction in the U.S. to approve the use of the ranked-choice voting election method. Question 1 provides for ranked-choice voting in primary and special elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council members. It allows voters to rank in order of preference up to five candidates, including a write-in candidate. Before the measure, the city’s charter provided for plurality voting, also known as first-past-the-post, and run-off elections, depending on the office and type of election. Question 1 also made changes to the timing of elections to fill vacancies and city council redistricting.
Maine, the only state to use ranked-choice voting for statewide elections, was the most populous jurisdiction to use ranked-choice voting. There, it was established through a citizen initiative approved by voters in 2016 and upheld by voters through a veto referendum in 2018. As of 2019, ranked-choice voting is used or has been approved for use in elections in 24 cities and counties in 12 states.
City voters also approved the other four charter amendment questions on the ballot, with support ranging from 70% and 77% according to unofficial reports. All five questions were put on the ballot by the New York City 2019 Charter Revision Commission.
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Tucson voters reject sanctuary city initiative 71% to 29%

Tucson voters rejected a measure that would have made Tucson the first in the state with sanctuary city policies. Over 70% of voters rejected Proposition 205. The citizen initiative would have declared in city code that Tucson was a sanctuary city, restricted law enforcement officers from actions to determine a person’s immigration status under certain conditions, prohibited officers from contacting federal law enforcement agencies to determine a person’s immigration status, and prohibited city employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status, among other policies.
The initiative was sponsored by Tucson Families Free & Together and supported by, among others, the state and county Democratic parties and the Arizona ACLU. Opponents of the measure included Gov. Doug Ducey (R), U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (R), U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly (D), and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild (D).
In 2012, the Tucson City Council voted 6-1 to pass a resolution identifying Tucson as immigrant-welcoming and declaring the city’s opposition to provisions of Senate Bill 1070, a bill passed in 2010 that required law enforcement officers to determine the legal status of individuals who are arrested or detained.
Voters also rejected Proposition 409, a measure that would have increased the salaries of the mayor and city council members.
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Preview of the 141 Nov. 5 local ballot measures within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope

In 2019, Ballotpedia is covering 141 local measures in jurisdictions within 17 different states for the November 5 election. This includes all local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S, plus all local measures in North Carolina, all local measures in California. Ballotpedia is also covering the 32 Nov. 5 statewide ballot measures on ballots in seven states. Here is a summary of the ballot measures that voters will decide on November 5, 2019.
Ballotpedia is covering 11 local ballot measures in two cities—Tucson and Scottsdale—and five school districts in Maricopa and Pima counties. Tucson Proposition 205 would make Tucson the first city in Arizona to enact sanctuary city policies.
Voters in local jurisdictions in 13 different California counties will decide 45 local ballot measures. Voters in San Francisco will decide five measures, including Proposition C, which concerns the authorization and regulation of e-cigarettes, and Proposition F, which concerns campaign contributions and advertising disclaimers. Voters in Rancho Palos Verdes will decide Measure B, an initiative proposing an increase to the minimum wage for hospitality workers.
Ballotpedia is covering four measures on the ballot in Denver, two measures on the ballot in Colorado Springs, and countywide measures in Arapahoe County and Douglas County. There are also two statewide measures on the ballot.
Voters in Hialeah and St. Petersburg will decide eight local ballot measures.
Ballotpedia is covering two citizen initiatives on the ballot in Boise that would enact voter approval requirements for library and sports stadium development projects.
Ballotpedia is covering an advisory vote on the ballot in Boston concerning whether or not to change the name of Dudley Square to Nubian Square.
Ballotpedia is covering five measures on the ballot in Kansas City. Four concern transferring park property out of the park system for school district or other use. Question 5 is a citizen initiative to rename Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. to The Paseo Blvd.
New Jersey
Ballotpedia is covering a veto referendum on the ballot in Jersey City concerning restrictions and regulations on renting out short-term rental properties. There is also one statewide measure on the ballot in New Jersey.
New Mexico
Ballotpedia is covering 16 measures on the ballot in Albuquerque. Proposition 2 would make Albuquerque the second jurisdiction in the U.S. (after Seattle) to adopt government-disbursed vouchers, known as democracy dollars, that voters could contribute to candidates.
New York
Ballotpedia is covering the five proposed charter amendments combining 19 proposals on the ballot in New York City. Question 1 includes a proposal to establish ranked-choice voting for primary and special elections in the city. Question 2 contains five proposals concerning the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.
North Carolina
Voters in local jurisdictions in seven different North Carolina counties will decide 11 local ballot measures.
Ballotpedia is covering 11 local measures on the November 2019 ballot in jurisdictions within four counties. These include citywide measures in Cleveland and Cincinnati, community college and school district measures, and countywide measures.
Ballotpedia is covering four local measures on the ballot in Portland, the Portland Metro area, and Portland Public Schools.
Voters in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will decide three local ballot measures. There is also one statewide measure on the ballot.
Ballotpedia is covering eight local ballot measures on the ballot in jurisdictions within five counties. Irving, El Paso, Harris County, Arlington and Tarrant County, and Austin and Travis County fall within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope for 2019. There are also 10 statewide measures on the ballot.
Ballotpedia is covering one tax measure on the ballot in Vineyard.
Ballotpedia is covering one local measure on the ballot in King County on November 5, 2019. The measure concerns a property tax levy renewal to fund emergency medical services. There are also 15 statewide measures on the ballot.

Louisiana voters approve two out of four proposed constitutional amendments

On Saturday, Louisiana voters approved two constitutional amendments and rejected two, according to unofficial election night results.
Amendment 1 was defeated with 47.25% in favor and 52.75% against. It would have extended an ad valorem tax exemption to property (such as raw materials, goods, commodities, personal property, and other articles) being stored in Louisiana in public or private warehouses but destined for the Outer Continental Shelf. According to amendment sponsor Blake Miguez (R), materials affected by the measure would have included things such as tools and equipment used for offshore drilling and production.
Amendment 2 was approved with 50.39% in favor and 49.61% against. It allowed for appropriations from the Education Excellence Fund (EEF) to the Louisiana Educational Television Authority (LETA), Thrive Academy, and laboratory schools operated by public colleges.
Amendment 3 was approved with 57.88% in favor and 42.12% against. It gave more authority to the Louisiana Board of Tax Appeals, including the authority to make rulings regarding the constitutionality of a tax, a power previously held exclusively by courts.
Amendment 4 was defeated with 36.51% in favor and 63.49% against. It would have allowed New Orleans to exempt properties with no more than 15 residential units from taxes “for the purpose of promoting and encouraging affordable housing,” according to the amendment text.
According to reports available prior to the election, Ballotpedia identified about $450,000 spent on campaigns in support of Amendment 1 ($100,000) and Amendment 4 ($350,000)—the two amendments that were defeated. Contributions to opposition campaigns were not found.
Between 1995 and 2018 in Louisiana voters decided 185 constitutional amendments proposed by the state legislature and approved 139 (75%).
In November 2020, voters will decide a constitutional amendment adding language stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom becomes third California governor in a row to veto pay-per-signature bans for ballot initiatives

On Oct. 7, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) vetoed a bill that would have banned paying ballot initiative signature petition circulators according to the number of signatures they collect, a method called pay-per-signature. Newsom’s two immediate predecessors—Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Jerry Brown (D)—vetoed similar bills after the state legislature passed laws prohibiting pay-per-signature in 2011, 2018, and 2019.
The 2019 bill—Assembly Bill 1451—would have required at least 10 percent of the required signatures for an initiative or referendum petition to be collected by volunteer (unpaid) circulators; changed the timeline for local elections officials to verify signatures for initiative and referendum petitions; required petitions to include information about whether the circulator is paid or volunteer; and made other changes regarding signature verification, circulators, and petition rules.
Gov. Newsom said in his veto statement, “While I appreciate the intent of this legislation to incentivize grassroots support for the initiative process, I believe this measure could make the qualification of many initiatives cost-prohibitive, thereby having the opposite effect. I am a strong supporter of California’s system of direct democracy and am reluctant to sign any bill that erects barriers to citizen participation in the electoral process.”
Nineteen of the 26 states with statewide initiatives or referendums allow campaigns to make payments to signature gatherers based on the number of signatures collected. Pay-per-signature bans exist in the other seven states. The most recent states to ban paying circulators on a per-signature basis were Florida in 2019 and Arizona in 2017.
Gov. Newsom isn’t the only governor to veto a restriction on a state initiative process in 2019. Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) vetoed a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, reduce the allowed circulation period, enact a single-subject rule, and require a fiscal impact statement. California is a Democratic state government trifecta, with Democrats controlling the legislature and the governor’s office. Idaho is a Republican state government trifecta.
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Vaping, ride-share taxes, minimum wage, and housing among California’s 45 local ballot measures on Nov. 5

Voters across 13 different California counties will decide the outcome of 45 local ballot measures on November 5, 2019. Below is a breakdown of the different topics the measures address:
  • 14 parcel tax measures
  • nine sales tax measures
  • four local hotel tax measures
  • four measures that would make city clerks, city treasurers, or both appointed instead of elected
  • two marijuana tax measures
  • two local spending limit increases
  • two measures concerning development and land use
  • two local business taxes, including a tax on ride-share companies in San Francisco
  • two measures concerning affordable housing (bonds and zoning/development regulations)
  • one campaign finance limits and disclosure requirements measure in San Francisco
  • one vaping authorization and regulation measure in San Francisco
  • one charter amendment in San Francisco concerning the city’s disability and aging services commission
  • one measure to increase the minimum wage for hospitality workers in Rancho Palos Verdes
An average of 64 local measures appeared on November ballots in the previous three odd-numbered years in California:
  • November 2017: 62 local measures
  • November 2015: 60 local measures
  • November 2013: 70 local measures
If you know of a local measure on the November 5 ballot in California that we missed, please email us at

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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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.

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.