Josh Altic

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

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

Los Angeles County Measure R approved

Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R on Tuesday 70% to 30% according to unofficial election night results. The measure was put on the ballot through a successful initiative petition campaign that submitted 247,000 signatures to the county clerk. Measure R tasks the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission with developing a plan designed to reduce the jail population and re-incarceration rates. It also grants the Commission subpoena power to investigate complaints made against the department. Going into the election, a majority of the nine-member commission needed to vote to request the Office of the Inspector General to subpoena documents or witnesses. Measure R gave the subpoena power directly to the Commission.

Reform LA Jails led the support campaign, Yes on R. As of January 2020, the committee had raised $1.9 million in contributions. Cari Tuna, the president of Open Philanthropy Project and Good Ventures, provided $1.2 million. Yes on R received endorsements from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva came out in opposition to the measure, stating, “Measure R will open the floodgates for many more ill-advised lawsuits designed to seek documents that are not legally available for public release. … The Board of Supervisors, the Inspector General and the Civilian Oversight Commission would better serve the community by working collaboratively with the Sheriff’s Department.” Ballotpedia did not identify any campaign committees registered in opposition to the measure.

Voters in Lincoln Public Schools approve $290 million bond

On Tuesday, Lincoln Public Schools, Nebraska voters approved a bond proposition 62% to 38%, authorizing $290 million for projects including the construction of two high schools and an elementary school, improvements and repairs of Park Middle School and Everett Elementary School, and capital improvements to other district facilities. Turnout was 34% for the all-mail election.

District officials estimated that a tax increase would not be needed to repay the bonds proposed by this measure. Going into the election, the district’s bond debt and building fund were paid through a property tax levy of $0.161 per $100 of assessed property value. District officials estimated this rate would not increase because of existing bond debt set to be repaid. As of 2020, the district’s total property tax levy was $1.238 per $100 in assessed property value.

LPS voters approved a $153 million bond issue in 2014 by about 67% to 33%.

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