Josh Altic

Josh Altic is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at

Vermont Town Meeting day on Tuesday; Montpelier voters to elect town officials and vote on 15 ballot questions

Most towns in Vermont will hold town meetings on Tuesday, March 1. These meetings are held every year on the first Tuesday of March. Citizens of the towns elect officials, but they also directly decide on the town’s annual budget, specific appropriations, and other policy issues through ballot questions called articles.

Towns in Vermont use two methods for electing officials and deciding ballot questions: (a) floor voting or (b) Australian ballots, which are ballots cast at a polling place like during in-person, election-day voting for other elections. Towns can also use a combination of the two methods. Floor voting takes place when town citizens congregate in one location and hold debates and vote on motions.

Floor voting can take place through (a) voice votes; (b) hand counts, usually used when the moderator cannot tell the results of a voice vote; or (c) paper ballots passed out, filled in, and collected at the meeting. State law requires paper ballots to be used to elect officials when they are elected through floor voting.

Vermont law makes town meeting day a holiday for employees of the state. It also allows all employees in the state to take unpaid time off for town meeting day, with an exception for the essential operation of the state’s business. State law allows towns to hold town meetings for floor votes on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday before the first Tuesday in March. Polls, however, must be open for Australian Voting on Town Meeting Day if that method is used.

According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s voting methods and turnout statistics by town for 2021:

  • about 65% of listed towns used Australian ballot voting to elect town officers, and 35% used floor voting;
  • about 28% used Australian ballot voting for approving a budget, and 72% used floor voting;
  • about 37% used Australian ballot voting for ballot questions; and
  • about 56% moved to Australian ballot voting in 2021.

To get a clearer idea of town meetings, which are unique to New England local government, we’ll look closer at the officers and articles that voters in Montpelier, Vermont, will decide at their 2022 town meeting.

Montpelier voters will use Australian ballot for all officials and ballot questions. They will choose

  • the mayor;
  • District 1, 2, and 3 city council members;
  • a parks commission member;
  • two cemetery commission members;
  • Montpelier Roxbury School District board members, school treasurer, and school clerk; and
  • a Central Vermont Public Safety Authority Board member.

They will also vote on 15 local ballot questions: 10 town questions; four school district questions; and one question for the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority, which includes the towns of Montpelier and Barre. Three questions were put on the ballot through signature petitions. Binding, financial expenditure measures can be added to the Montpelier ballot through a petition signed by 10% of registered voters.

Citizens will vote either in favor of or against specific proposals deciding:

  • mayor and city council member compensation;
  • a $10.66 million budget for debts, expenses, and taxes in the 2022-2023 fiscal year;
  • two measures proposing town appropriations for specific purposes;
  • four bond issue measures;
  • a property tax within the town’s designated downtown area;
  • Montpelier Roxbury School District board member compensation;
  • a $26.94 million budget for the Montpelier Roxbury School District;
  • an additional appropriation for the Capital Reserve Fund of the Montpelier Roxbury School District and a measure allowing the district board to spend audited fund balances for operations; and
  • an appropriation for the Central Vermont Public Safety Authority District of $30,000—with $15,900 from Barre City and $14,100 from Montpelier.

Ballotpedia is covering local measures in 2022 that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities and all local ballot measures in California. Ballotpedia’s 2022 local ballot measure coverage in Vermont includes Montpelier.

Additional reading:

Arizona voters could decide an amendment in 2022 designed to prevent critical race theory in schools

On Nov. 8, 2022, Arizona voters could decide a constitutional amendment designed to prevent what the measure’s proponents calls critical race theory.

On Feb. 17, the Arizona House of Representatives approved House Concurrent Resolution 2001 (HCR 2001), passing the amendment by a vote of 31-28. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. Republicans have a 16-14 majority in the state Senate.

The official title of the HCR 2001 is the “Stop Critical Race Theory and Racial Discrimination in Schools and Other Public Institutions Act.” The purpose section of the resolution states that ideologies and practices known as critical race theory contradict the Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Arizona Constitution by dividing people based on race and ethnicity.

The measure would amend the sections of the constitution that deal with preferential treatment and discrimination (Section 36 of Article II) and education (Article XI). Among other provisions and details, the measure would:

  1. limit any affirmative action policies taken in order to qualify for a federal program to outreach, advertising, and communication;
  2. prohibit compelling or soliciting any applicant, teacher, employee, or student to support an ideology or movement that promotes differential treatment based on race or giving preference based on such support; and
  3. prohibit any public education employee from endorsing ideas that violate the Civil Rights Act and Article II of the Arizona Constitution or requiring participation in training that promotes them. The amendment would specify seven such ideas, including: “That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or ethnicity, is subject to blame or judgment or bears responsibility for actions committed by other members of the same race or ethnic group.”

Rep. Steve Kaiser (R) said the amendment would make sure “Arizona’s students and teachers are never discriminated against based upon their race or taught to discriminate against others based on race.”

Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (D), a teacher, said the amendment seeks to address something that’s not an issue in schools. Pawlic said, “We aren’t planning lessons that will tear down children and make them feel badly about themselves, their culture, or their gender. That’s not what teachers do.”

The legislature is also considering a statutory bill. On Feb. 3, the Arizona House passed House Bill 2112 by a vote of 31-28. The bill would not need voter approval but would require the governor’s signature. HB 2112 has provisions similar to HCR 2001 and prohibits instruction promoting the same concepts specified and listed in HCR 2001.

In 2021, the Arizona Legislature passed and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed legislation included in budget bills that addressed teaching about race in public schools. The Arizona Supreme Court overturned the legislation as a violation of the state’s single-subject rules for bills.

Four statewide measures are currently certified for the Nov. 8 ballot in Arizona. One measure that was put on the ballot by the legislature would allow some non-citizen students to receive in-state college tuition. The legislature also put two constitutional amendments on the ballot concerning the state’s citizen initiative process. The fourth measure is a veto referendum against a 2021 bill to reduce the state’s income tax brackets to two and provide for a flat rate when state revenue reaches a certain threshold.

Additional reading:

Michigan Supreme Court overturns distribution and paid circulator registration requirements for initiative petition drives

On Jan. 24, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled provisions of a 2018 law adding restrictions to the state’s initiative process unconstitutional.

The decision overturned two provisions of House Bill 6595 (HB6595):

  • a distribution requirement to allow no more than 15 percent of required signatures to come from a given congressional district and
  • a registration requirement for paid signature gatherers.

Justice Megan Cavanagh wrote, “It would run directly contrary to the clear intention that nothing more than a minimum number of signatures from the statewide population is necessary to propose changes to Michigan’s laws.”

The supreme court upheld a provision requiring paid circulators to identify that they are paid on petitions forms.

Background on HB 6595

In Dec. 2018, the state legislature passed and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed HB 6595, which added restrictions to the state’s ballot initiative process. At the time, Michigan had a Republican Trifecta, with the legislature and governor’s office controlled by Republicans.

Michigan voters approved three initiatives on the Nov. 2018 ballot to

  • legalize marijuana;
  • create an independent redistricting commission; and
  • add voting policies, including straight-ticket voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting, as constitutional rights.

HB 6595 was written to require that no more than 15 percent of required signatures come from a given congressional district, which had the effect of requiring signatures to come from at least seven of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts. HB 6595 also required paid signature gatherers to register with the secretary of state and state on petition sheets that they were paid, among other provisions related to the initiative process.

On Jan. 22, 2019, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) asked Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) for a formal opinion on whether HB 6596 violated the Michigan Constitution’s initiative and referendum provisions. On May 22, 2019, Nessel released an opinion stating that certain provisions of HB 6595, including the distribution requirement, were unconstitutional. The opinion is binding on state officials unless it is overturned by a court ruling. In response to Nessel’s opinion, Rep. Jim Lower (R), who sponsored HB 6595, said, “I don’t think anybody’s surprised. I disagree with the conclusions she has come to, and I think it will be litigated.”

In June 2019, lawsuits were filed against Nessel’s formal opinion. The Republican-controlled state House and Senate filed litigation against Nessel. On Sept. 27, 2019, Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims ruled in favor of Attorney General Nessel, deciding that the distribution requirement was unconstitutional. Plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

On January 27, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, decided that the state constitution’s signature requirements for citizen-initiated ballot measures are self-executing. The Michigan State Legislature, according to the court, cannot “impose additional obligations on a self-executing constitutional provision.” The Court of Appeals ruled that the distribution requirement was an “unreasonable restraint on the constitutional right of the people to initiate laws.” The House and Senate appealed the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, which initially vacated the case on Dec. 29, 2020, based on standing, but it ruled on the provisions of HB 6595 in Jan. 2022.

Distribution requirements

A distribution requirement states that petitions for an initiative or veto referendum petition must be signed by voters from different political subdivisions in order for the ballot measure or candidate to qualify for the ballot.

In the 26 states that feature the powers of initiative, veto referendum, or both, 16 have laws imposing distribution requirements, while 10 of them, including Michigan, do not.

In seven states, the distribution requirement for statewide initiative petitions is spread out over a state’s counties (Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming). In five states, it is calculated based on state legislative districts (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah). In the other four states with a distribution requirement, it is based on U.S. congressional districts (Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada). Michigan’s overturned distribution requirement law was also based on congressional districts. Washington, D.C., has a distribution requirement for citizen initiatives that is based on city wards.

Ballotpedia published an analysis comparing the difficulty of different state distribution requirements to meet. The analysis was based on two of the many factors determining the difficulty:

  • The percentage of jurisdictions from which signatures must be collected (i.e., from how much of the state must at least some signatures be collected) and
  • The size of the requirement in each required jurisdiction (i.e., how evenly must the signature gathering be spread out across the state).

Michigan’s overturned distribution requirement was near the middle when compared to the other 16 states with distribution requirement laws for initiatives and veto referendums. Seven states had requirements ranked easier based on the two factors, and nine states and D.C. had requirements ranked harder or roughly equal. Mississippi’s requirement, as interpreted by the Mississippi Supreme Court in a 2021 ruling, is mathematically impossible to meet with the states current four congressional districts.

Minimum wage increases in 25 states in 2022

Ballotpedia recently published our annual analysis of statewide minimum wage increases in the coming year. In 2022, the minimum wage will increase in 25 states and Washington, D.C. The increases ranged from $0.22 in Michigan to $1.50 in Virginia. Twenty increases took effect on Jan. 1. Four take effect on July 1. One takes effect on Sept. 30. The minimum wage in New York increased on Dec. 31, 2021.

Here are highlights from the year:

  • The largest minimum wage increases based on state laws are $1.50 in Virginia ($9.50 to $11) and $1.25 in Delaware ($9.25 to $10.5).
  • Five states will increase their minimum wage rates by $1 per hour in 2022: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and New Mexico.
  • Nine states have passed laws or ballot measures increasing their statewide minimum wage rates incrementally to $15 per hour. California is the first of those states to reach $15 per hour in 2022.
  • Nine states and D.C. will increase their minimum wage rates because the rates are tied to inflation, while 16 states have specific increases scheduled as part of an incremental increase to a target rate.
  • Out of the nine states with minimum wages indexed to changes in cost-of-living or inflation, eight have minimum wage laws passed through ballot initiatives, and one has a minimum wage law passed by the legislature.
  • The average increase based on inflation in 2022 is $0.51 per hour. In 2021, the average increase based on inflation was $0.16 per hour.
  • The largest inflation-based increases were in $0.80 in Washington and $0.65 in Arizona. In 2021, the inflation-based increases were $0.19 for Washington and $0.15 for Arizona.
  • Two state legislatures passed minimum wage increase legislation in 2021: Rhode Island and Delaware. Both laws were designed to increase minimum wage rates to $15 per hour by 2025.
  • New York and Oregon divide the states into different regions with different minimum wage rates.

Ballotpedia’s year-end analysis of statewide ballot measures

On Dec. 17, Ballotpedia published its year-end analysis of the 39 statewide ballot measures voters decided in 2021. Voters in nine states approved 26 measures and defeated 13 on four different election dates. The year-end analysis drills down into the types and origins of the measures, the outcomes, campaign finance and signature-gathering costs, and ballot language readability. It also provides historical context on all of these details.

Here are some highlights from the analysis:

  1. There were more statewide measures in 2021 than in any odd-numbered year since 2007. On average, there have been 33 in eight states during odd-numbered years since 2011.
  2. State legislatures referred 32 questions to the ballot, of which, voters approved 25 and rejected seven.
  3. Four citizen initiatives were on the ballot in 2021. Three were in Colorado and were all defeated. One was in Maine and was approved.
  4. In 2021, statewide ballot measure campaigns raised $107 million. Support and opposition campaigns for Maine Question 1 raised $99.62 million, which was 93% of the total contributions across statewide measures.
  5. The campaign opposing Maine Question 1 spent $448.61 for every vote against the measure, which is the highest cost per vote (CPV) of any statewide ballot measure campaign since at least 2016.
  6. In total, the campaigns behind the three initiatives in Colorado spent $3.33 million on signature gathering, amounting to an average cost per required signature of $8.42.
  7. The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level readability score for the ballot titles of all 39 statewide ballot measures was 18 (second-year graduate school reading level).

Additional reading:

Nov. 2 local ballot measure results final with Dec. 6 recount results in Colorado Springs

On Dec. 6, the El Paso County, Colorado, Elections Department announced the conclusion of a recount on a Colorado Springs School District bond measure, Issue 4B.

Issue 4B failed by 11 votes with 27,476 votes against and 27,465 votes in favor. It would have authorized the district to issue $350 million in bonds for school facility construction and capital improvements.

Issue 4B was the last measure to be called out of the 156 local ballot measures Ballotpedia covered in 18 different states on Nov. 2. Voters approved 109 measures and defeated 47.

Highlights from the local ballot measure results on Nov. 2 include:

  • Voters in Austin, Texas, defeated an initiative to establish minimum police staffing requirements resulting in the city having to hire additional police officers. The initiative was also designed to require additional police officer training and create certain police hiring guidelines and incentives.
  • Voters in Minneapolis defeated an initiative to replace the city police department with a department of public safety.
  • Voters in Cleveland approved an initiative to make changes related to police oversight, discipline, and policies.
  • Voters in Albany, New York, approved a measure to give the existing Community Police Review Board more authority over investigation and oversight over complaints against police.
  • Voters in Detroit, Michigan, approved a measure to create a city reparations committee tasked with making recommendations for housing and economic development programs for Black Detroit residents.
  • Voters in Tucson, Arizona, approved a $15 per hour minimum wage initiative.
  • Voters in Broomfield, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Westbrook, Maine, approved measures to enact ranked-choice voting.

On Dec. 17, Ballotpedia will publish its year-end analysis of all 2021 local ballot measures in the top 100 largest cities and state capitals. This includes local measures that were on the ballot for more than 20 pre-November election dates. Notable topics among local measures this year included

  • police oversight, budgets, structure, practices, and collective bargaining;
  • race and ethnicity;
  • minimum wage;
  • election policies, including ranked-choice voting and campaign finance;
  • public camping bans; and
  • bonds and taxes.

Voters in three cities approved ranked-choice voting measures on Nov. 2

Voters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Broomfield, Colorado, and Westbook, Maine, approved ballot measures to enact ranked-choice voting (RCV) for mayor and city council elections. Westbrook’s measure also enacts RCV for school committee elections.

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

  • Ann Arbor voters approved Proposal B by 73% to 27%. Proposal B was designed to enact RCV for mayor and city council elections when authorized by state law. Proposal B made Ann Arbor the third city in Michigan to adopt RCV.
  • Westbrook voters approved a ranked-choice voting initiative by 63% to 37%. Maine is one of the states that has enacted RCV at the state level. The initiative made Westbrook the second city in Maine after Portland to enact RCV.
  • Broomfield voters approved Question 2A by 52% to 48%. Question 2A made Broomfield the fifth city in Colorado to adopt RCV. Boulder voters approved an RCV measure in 2020.

Earlier this year, voters in Austin, Texas, and Burlington, Vermont, approved ranked-choice voting ballot measures.

Two states—Maine and Alaska—have adopted RCV for statewide elections, both through citizen initiatives. Another eight states contained jurisdictions that had implemented RCV at some level. Another six states contained jurisdictions that had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections.

Additional reading:

Voters in seven states have decided 11 veto referendums targeting redistricting maps since the first in 1915

States have recently approved new congressional and legislative district maps or are in the process of redistricting after the 2020 census. So it seemed like a good time to look back at instances in the past when opponents of specific redistricting maps collected signatures for veto referendum petitions asking voters to repeal the maps. 

Voters in seven states have decided 11 veto referendums targeting the repeal of recently passed redistricting maps. Voters repealed seven maps targeted through veto referendums and upheld four. California had the most district map veto referendums with five. Maryland, North Dakota, Arizona, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Ohio each had one. 

Most recently, voters in California and Maryland upheld maps in 2012. The first veto referendums on district maps were in Ohio in 1915 and Missouri in 1922. Voters repealed both targeted congressional maps.

Currently, Ballotpedia is tracking one veto referendum petition effort in Arkansas targeting the repeal of the state’s congressional map that was approved on Oct. 13.

Refresher on veto referendums

A veto referendum is a measure put on the ballot through a citizen signature petition. A veto referendum targets the repeal of a bill recently passed by the legislature. Ballot initiatives are a more common type of citizen-initiated measure, and they propose a new change to state law rather than targeting a recent bill for repeal.

There are 23 states that have a process for veto referendums at the statewide level. From 1906 through 2020, 526 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 342 (65%) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 184 (35%) of the targeted laws.

Status of redistricting

As of November 1, 2021, seven states have adopted congressional district maps, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required) and 37 states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans after the 2020 census.

As of October 25, 2021, eight states have adopted legislative district maps, one state’s legislative map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, one state enacted its legislative boundaries based on Census estimates which will be revised in an upcoming special session, and 40 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.

Past veto referendums targeting district maps

California – Proposition 40: State Senate Redistricting Map (2012) – Upheld

Maryland – Question 5: Congressional Redistricting Maps (2012) – Upheld

California – Proposition 12: State Assembly Redistricting Map (1982) – Repealed

California – Proposition 11: State Senate Redistricting Map (1982) – Repealed

California – Proposition 10: Congressional Redistricting Map (1982) – Repealed

North Dakota – State Legislative Apportionment Plan (1973) – Repealed

Arizona – Proposition 300: Legislative Districts (1968) – Upheld

Oklahoma – State Question 437: Congressional Districts (1966) – Repealed

California – Proposition 1: Reapportionment of Legislative Districts (1928) – Upheld

Missouri – Proposition 17: Congressional Redistricting Maps (1922) – Repealed

Ohio – Referendum 1: Congressional Redistricting Maps (1915) – Repealed

78% fewer local ballot measures on Nov. 2 ballots in California than average since 2009

On Nov. 2, voters in 15 different cities, school districts, and special districts in 10 different California counties will decide 16 local ballot measures.

The average number of local California ballot measures on the November ballot in odd-numbered years since 2009 was 74. In 2019, there were 45, and in 2017 there were 62.

One measure concerns election dates for a school district in Los Angeles County. One measure in Woodside is a citizen initiative related to parking and gathering places in residentially zoned areas. One measure in Santa Cruz would allocate 20% of revenue generated by a marijuana business tax approved by voters in 2014 to youth and early childhood development programs and services. The remaining 13 measures would approve tax increases or renewals.

  • Eight of the November measures are parcel taxes, which are a type of property tax unique to California that is based on units of property or property characteristics rather than assessed value.
  • Two are utility tax measures.
  • One is a sales tax measure.
  • One is a hotel tax measure.
  • One is a real estate transfer tax measure.

None of the measures are bond issues. California law requires voter approval of certain local taxes and bonds.

Nov. 2 is the seventh local ballot measure election date in California so far in 2021. Including the 16 measures on the ballot in November, Ballotpedia has covered 43 local ballot measures in California in 2021. In 2019, there were 78. In 2017, there were 135. The average number of local measures during even-numbered years was 759 over the last three cycles.

In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering all local measures in California and all statewide ballot measures.

Additional reading:

Cincinnati city council fixes error that would have made Issue 3 increase city council salaries instead of decrease them

On Sept. 30, the Cincinnati City Council passed an emergency ordinance to fix an error in the legal text of Issue 3 on the Nov. 2 ballot. The error would have made Issue 3 increase city council pay instead of decreasing it.

Issue 3, a citizen initiative, was designed to decrease city council pay to the median household income ($46,260 in 2021), among six other changes to provisions governing the city council and mayor. As of the beginning of 2021, the salary of a city council member was $60,000. After proponents submitted enough valid signatures for the initiative, the city council approved an ordinance on Sept. 1 officially putting Issue 3 on the ballot that said median family income ($62,941 in 2021) instead of median household income.

The city council’s Sept. 30 emergency ordinance states that the language in the initiative petition text (household) controls and will set the effective salary level if Issue 3 is approved.

According to the City Solicitor Andrew Garth, the error came about when a draft of the initiative text was sent to the city solicitor that had the word family instead of household. City staff drafted the initial ordinance based on that draft of the initiative text. However, initiative proponents had edited the petition text to change that one word before collecting signatures for the initiative. Initiative sponsors, city staff, and the board of elections did not notice the one-word difference until after the language was approved for the ballot on Sept. 16.

State Representative and city council candidate Tom Brinkman sponsored the initiative. In addition to the change to city council pay, the measure would

  • require the city council to approve any lawsuits filed on behalf of the city;
  • establish a one-year residence requirement for mayoral and city council candidates;
  • make it so the unelected candidate with the most votes at the last election fills city council vacancies instead of city council members designating a successor;
  • require the mayor to assign legislative proposals to the relevant committees within 30 days and to put proposals on the city council agenda within 30 days of them being reported out of committee;
  • make the mayor and city council members liable for purposeful or reckless violations of state open meeting laws; and
  • provide for a process for the removal of the mayor as set out in state law.

Local Ohio voters in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Hamilton County, and Lucas County will decide nine local ballot measures on Nov. 2.

In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures outside of the top 100 largest cities. Ballotpedia is also covering all local measures in California and all statewide ballot measures.