Victoria Antram

Victoria Antram is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at

Colorado local ballot measure election recap

Ballotpedia covered eight local measures in Denver, Colorado Springs, Arapahoe County, and Douglas County on Nov. 5. Six were approved, one was defeated, and one has not been called.
Approval of Douglas County Ballot Issue 1A was ahead as of Nov. 14 with a margin of 52.27% to 47.73%. Because of mail-in ballots, this race is too close to call with certainty until results are official. The measure would extend the 0.13% sales tax for 15 years to fund transportation infrastructure.
All four measures in Denver were approved, including a measure to create a Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and a measure establishing residency requirements for elected officials. All of the measures received at least 75% of the vote.
In Colorado Springs, Ballot Issue 2B was approved with 57.72% of the vote, and Ballot Issue 2C was approved with 65.10%. Ballot Issue 2B authorizes the city to retain its $7 million revenue surplus to be used for the improvement of parks and recreational facilities rather than refunding to taxpayers as required by law without voter approval. Ballot Issue 2C renewed at a decreased rate a sales tax used to fund road repairs.
Arapahoe County Ballot Issue 1A was defeated with a margin of 33.34% to 66.66%. The measure would have authorized an additional property tax of $3.4 per $1,000 in assessed property value to fund public safety services.

California local ballot measure election recap

According to unofficial election results, voters in local jurisdictions in 13 different California counties approved 35 local ballot measures and defeated eight measures on November 5, 2019.
Two measures are too close to call with certainty. San Francisco Proposition D and Redwood City School District Proposition H are tax measures that require a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass. Unofficial election results report Proposition D has crossed that threshold with 67.65% of the vote. However, it’s unclear how many votes remain to be counted. Proposition H is currently below the two-thirds threshold with 66.21%.
Voters in Rancho Palos Verde defeated Measure B, which would have increased the minimum wage of hospitality workers to $15 and enacted other labor regulations. The margin was 23% to 77%.
Topics on the ballot ranged from parcel taxes to e-cigarette regulations. California voters decided on 14 parcel tax measures, approving ten and defeating three. Redwood Proposition H concerns a parcel tax but is too close to call. Out of the nine sales tax measures on California ballots, eight were approved and one was defeated. All four hotel tax measures were approved. Out of the four measures concerning appointment and election of city officials, three were approved and one was defeated. Both marijuana business tax measures were approved, and both spending limit (Gann override) measures were approved. There were two measures concerning development and land use on the ballot, and both were approved. Two measures concerning housing in San Francisco were approved. Out of the two measures concerning local business taxes, one was approved, and San Francisco Proposition D, which would tax ride-share businesses, is still too close to call.

Boston votes against advising the city to rename Dudley Square to Nubian Square

Boston voters defeated a nonbinding advisory question regarding the name change of Dudley Square to Nubian Square. With 100% of precincts reporting, the margin was 45.7% in favor and 54.3% against. Dudley Square was named for Thomas Dudley, the second governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who served from 1634 to 1651. It is located in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. Efforts to change the name of Dudley Square began in 2016. Nubia is an ancient African kingdom that was located in present-day Sudan. Nubian Square was chosen to represent the African-American community, which makes up 53 percent of the population in Dudley Square. The result of the election is nonbinding. The future of Dudley Square will ultimately be determined by the city.
The Committee on Governance reported to the Boston City Council that the names Dudley and Nubian have received scrutiny for their respective affiliations to slavery. The committee’s report said, “Some comments reflected support of changing the name from Dudley Square but do not support the name change to Nubian Square because of Nubia’s ties to slavery.”

Boise voters approve Propositions 1 and 2 requiring voter approval for certain levels of spending on library and sports park developments

Boise voters approved Proposition 1, with a margin of 69% in favor and 31% opposed, and Proposition 2, with a margin of 75% in favor and 25% opposed. Proposition 1 requires voter approval before the city allocates $25 million or more on library development. Proposition 2 requires majority voter approval in a future election before spending more than $5 million on sports stadium development projects. The election results mean that Boise voters will have to decide in a future election, likely in March of 2020, on proposed spending for the renovation of Boise’s Main Library Campus and creation of the Boise Sports Park.
The estimated cost of the Main Library Campus project is $104 million, which exceeds the city’s budget of $85 million. The estimated cost of the Boise Sports Park is $40 million, which would be publicly and privately funded. Both propositions were placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative petition effort led by Boise Working Together.

Boise, Idaho to vote on two ballot propositions on Tuesday

Voters in Boise, Idaho, will head to the polls on Tuesday to vote on two ballot propositions. Proposition 1 would require majority voter approval in a future election for the city to spend $25 million or more on a library development project. In 2018, Boise started plans for the renovation of the Main Library Campus. The plan for the project included space for an expanded library collection, fine arts and history exhibits, and event space. The estimated cost of the project was $104 million. Planning for the project is currently on hold until the election occurs.
Boise Public Library Foundation authored the official opposition arguments for the Boise Voter Guide. The Foundation referenced a third ballot question. The third ballot question, which would have asked voters to approve or reject the specific Maine Library Campus plan, was sponsored by Boise City Council President Pro Tem Elaine Clegg but ultimately was not put on the ballot. By the time the third question was abandoned, however, it was too late to amend the Boise Voter Guide language to remove reference to a third question.
Proposition 2 would require majority voter approval in a future election to spend $5 million or more on sports stadium development projects. The election will determine the future of the proposed Boise Sports Park—a several-acre development with a multi-use facility that would host sporting events, concerts, and festivals. In 2017, the city estimated the cost of the new Boise Sports Park at $40 million.
Both propositions were placed on the ballot through citizen initiative petitions sponsored by Boise Working Together.
Voters can register online or at their polling places on the day of the election. Polls will be open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm on November 5.

2019 statewide ballot measures receive $21.6 million and counting in campaign contributions

There were 36 state ballot measures certified in eight states to appear on 2019 ballots. As of October 25, 2019, Ballotpedia had tracked $21.6 million in contributions to the ballot measure campaigns supporting and opposing eight of those measures. This figure included both cash contributions as well as in-kind goods and services. Support campaigns raised about 69 percent of the campaign funds.
The ballot measure that spurred the most campaign contributions was Pennsylvania’s Marsy’s Law Amendment. The support campaign reported $6 million. No opposition campaign contributions were reported. The amendment would add a section addressing crime victims’ rights to the Pennsylvania Constitution Declaration of Rights. The other ballot measures topping the campaign contribution list were Colorado Proposition CC and Washington I-976, which spurred $5.4 million and $4.8 million in campaign contributions, respectively. Colorado Proposition CC would allow the state to retain revenue it is currently required to refund under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to be used for education and transportation purposes. Washington I-976 would limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30 and establish other restrictions on vehicle taxes and fees.
Ballotpedia organized the campaign finance data for the year under three categories: by state, by measure type, and by topic. Out of the eight states that had statewide ballot measures, only five reported active campaigns. The states that did not have any registered committees reporting contributions were: Kansas, New Jersey, and Maine. The three states that featured the most in ballot measure campaigns contributions were Washington with $7.3 million, Colorado with $7.2 million, and Pennsylvania with $6 million.
Out of the 36 ballot measures, two were citizen-initiated measures and 34 were legislative or automatic referrals, which included Washington’s 12 nonbinding advisory questions. Total contributions for citizen-initiated measures totaled over $7.3 million. Total contributions for legislative referrals were approximately $14.2 million. The total amount of contributions received by campaigns surrounding legislative referrals was greater than the total contributions received by campaigns surrounding citizen-initiated measures, but on average citizen-initiated measures spurred more contributions per measure than legislative referrals.
Ballot measures in 2019 concerned three main topics: taxes, law enforcement, and affirmative action. Campaigns surrounding ballot measures that concerned taxes and fees received combined contributions of $13.9 million. The support campaign for Pennsylvania’s Marsy’s Law measure, received a total of $6 million. Campaigns for and against Washington’s affirmative action-related veto referendum received $2.5 million.

Ballotpedia’s 2019 ballot measure readability scores—How easy is it to understand what’s on your ballot?

In 2019, 36 statewide ballot measures were certified for ballots in eight states. Ballotpedia scored the readability of ballot titles and summaries using two formulas–Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL). The FRE formula produces a score between a negative number and 100, with the highest score (100) representing a 5th-grade equivalent reading level and scores at or below zero representing college graduate-equivalent reading level. The FKGL formula produces a score equivalent to the estimated number of years of U.S. education required to understand a text. Both formulas used in calculating readability scores depend on the number of syllables, words, and sentences in a text. Other factors, such as the complexity of an idea in a text, are not reflected in readability scores.
The average FKGL score for 2019 ballot measure titles or questions is 15 years of formal U.S. education. The range of scores is 6 to 27 years. The average FRE score for 2019 ballot measure titles is 26. The scores range from -22 to 69.
Measures in some states are given additional explanations beyond the ballot title or question. The average FKGL for these ballot summaries or explanations in 2019 is 15 years of formal U.S. education. The average FRE score for ballot measure summaries is 25.
The states with the lowest average FKGL scores for ballot titles or questions are Washington, Pennsylvania, and Maine with 9, 10, and 17, respectively.
The states with the highest average FKGL scores for ballot titles or questions are Colorado, Kansas, and Texas with 27, 23, and 20.
Average ballot title grades were lowest for language written by the Washington Attorney General (9) and initiative petitioners (10). Average ballot title grades were highest for language written by state legislatures (20).
Ballotpedia also measures the word length of ballot titles across states. The states with the longest ballot titles or questions in 2019 on average are Kansas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Colorado; all of these except New Jersey did not feature additional ballot summaries or explanations. The states with the shortest ballot titles or questions on average are Texas, Maine, Louisiana, and Washington.
Compared to the last odd-year election, the average FKGL score for ballot titles for 2019 dropped. The average FKGL score for the 27 2019 statewide ballot measures was 20 years of formal education. The range of scores for 2017 was also wider, ranging from 7 to 42.

Unofficial election results indicate Birmingham ballot measures likely approved on October 8

Voters in Birmingham, Alabama, approved three ballot measures—Propositions 1, 2, and 3—on Oct. 8. Proposition 1 continues a 42-cent tax for public school use. Proposition 2 continues the 28-cent tax for public school operations. Proposition 3 continues the 28-cent tax for debt service of school bonds. The total tax rate renewed by the propositions was $0.98 per $100 of taxable property for 25 years. Birmingham City Schools reported that the taxes raise approximately $32 million per year, which is about 14 percent of its annual budget.
Election night results with 94 percent of precincts reporting showed all three measures ahead with about 90 percent of voters approving them. Support for Proposition 1 led the race with 90.12 percent to 9.88 percent. Proposition 2 was supported by 90.06 percent of voters to 9.94 percent against. Proposition 3 had 89.23 percent of voters vote in favor of it, and 10.77 percent vote against it.
The taxes were last approved in 1991 and were set to expire in September 2021.

Unofficial election results indicate Cary bond measures likely approved in special election

The town of Cary voted on two bond issues on Oct. 8. The first measure authorizes the town to issue $112 million in bonds to fund the expansion and creation of parks and recreation facilities. The second measure authorizes the town to issue $113 million in bonds to fund improvements in local transportation. The improvements include streets, sidewalks, bridges, overpasses, traffic controls, streetscape, and bicycle facilities.
The election night results show both measures ahead. Support for the parks and recreation bond measure led the race with 76.50 percent to 23.50 percent. The transportation bond measure had 79.74 percent of voters approve it and 20.26 percent vote against it.
Cary Town Council voted unanimously to put the bond measures on the ballot after a public hearing in July. The last bond issues in the town were approved in 2012 and were used to fund fire, transportation, and park projects. The town reported that these projects are in progress or complete.

San Francisco Proposition C campaign loses support from Juul Labs

On September 30, the newly appointed CEO of Juul Labs, K.C. Crosthwaite, announced that the company was pulling its financial backing of the support campaign for San Francisco Proposition C, a citizen initiative to authorize and regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes. In the announcement, Crosthwaite stated, “We must strive to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders, and earn the trust of the societies in which we operate. That includes inviting an open dialogue, listening to others and being responsive to their concerns.”
Juul Labs was the primary sponsor for Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation, which led the Yes on C: Stop Youth Vaping campaign. Juul contributed over $11.5 million in loans to the campaign.
Following Juul’s announcement, Yes on C announced suspending its campaign and released the following statement: “We understand JUUL’s leadership has decided to cease support for the campaign as part of a larger review of the company’s policies. Based on that news, we have made the decision not to continue on with the campaign. … We will be winding down all campaign activities over the course of this week.”
No on C, San Francisco Kids vs. Big Tobacco is leading the opposition campaign. The director of No on C, Larry Tramutola, responded to the news in a statement saying that they will not believe the news until Yes on C has returned unused funds to Juul and halted all campaign activities.
Proposition C proposes to overturn the 2019 city ban that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes that have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. No e-cigarette manufacturers have completed the FDA review to date. It also proposes to enact additional age verification requirements; enact rules governing the advertisement of vapor products with regard to minors; and require additional licensing and permitting for businesses selling vapor products.
The initiative will still appear on the November 5 ballot in San Francisco. Local citizen initiatives cannot be withdrawn later than 88 days prior to the election.