Victoria Antram

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

Wisconsin will vote on Marsy’s Law amendment and other local measures on April 7

Wisconsin will be the fourteenth state to vote on a Marsy’s Law amendment on April 7. The amendment would add 14 additional rights to the existing list of crime victims’ rights in section 9m of Article I of the state Constitution. The additional enumerated rights include a right to privacy; a right to the protection of information; a right to be present at all criminal proceedings and hearings; a right to reasonable protection from the alleged criminal; a right to be notified of the release, escape, or death of the alleged criminal in a timely manner; a right to speak in any hearing related to the rights of the victim; a right to submit information about the case to authorities; a right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the alleged criminal; and a right to be informed of all rights and protections granted by the constitutional amendment and related laws.

Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is leading the campaign in support of the ballot measure. As of February 10, 2020, the committee reported receiving over $500,000 in loans from Marsy’s Law for All, the national foundation that has funded 13 statewide Marsy’s Law ballot measure campaigns. It was founded in 2009 by Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp. Nicholas was the sponsor of the first Marsy’s Law, which was on the ballot in California as Proposition 9 in 2008. The legislation is named after Henry Nicholas’ sister Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. All 13 campaigns received majority voter approval; however, two of those amendments were overturned in Montana and Kentucky. The 2019 election results in Pennsylvania have not been certified because of a pending court case regarding the constitutionality of the amendment.

Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-21), a legislative sponsor of the amendment, said, “Crime victims should have a voice in the criminal justice process. … Marsy’s Law will help level the legal playing field while still preserving a fair justice system.” The ACLU of Wisconsin opposes the measure. In legislative testimony, the ACLU said, “Victim’s rights cannot be equated to the rights of the accused because they serve very different roles. Defendants’ rights are in the constitution because they are rights against the state, not because they are valued more by society than are those of victims.”

From 2006 to 2019, a total of five legislatively referred constitutional amendments appeared on Wisconsin ballots. All but one were approved.

Ballotpedia is also covering two local ballot measures in Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Schools voters will decide on a referendum that would incrementally increase its annual revenue limit by a total of $87 million over four years and maintain that level thereafter with an estimated property tax of $1,118 per $100,000 of assessed property value (an increase of $160). The 1993-1994 school year was the first year Wisconsin enforced school revenue limits across the state. A revenue limit is the maximum amount of revenue the district is allowed to raise via property taxes according to state law. In 2018, 157 school districts placed similar referendums on Wisconsin ballots, and 90 percent passed.

Milwaukee County voters will be voting on a nonbinding advisory question regarding redistricting procedures in Wisconsin. Support for the question advises the Wisconsin State Legislature to create a nonpartisan redistricting plan for state legislative and congressional boundaries. Six other towns and six other counties in Wisconsin are featuring similar nonbinding redistricting questions on ballots in April.

The deadline for online voter registration was extended to March 30 by a district court ruling. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 2. Wisconsin allows same-day voter registration. All polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time on election day.

New Mexico voters will decide bond package at November ballot that would fund senior citizen facilities, public libraries, and education

A bond package containing three separate bond issues was signed by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and certified for the ballot on March 11, 2020. The bond package was introduced on January 29, 2020, as Senate Bill 207. To put a bond question before voters, a simple majority is required in both the New Mexico State Senate and the New Mexico House of Representatives. A simple majority vote of the statewide electorate is required to approve it. On February 18, 2020, the New Mexico Senate approved the measures 41-0 with one member excused from voting. On February 20, 2020, the New Mexico House of Representatives approved SB 207 in a vote of 66-0 with four members excused.

The bond package will appear as three separate bond questions on November ballots. The New Mexico Senior Citizens Facilities Bond Issue authorizes the sale and issuance of $33 million in bonds for senior citizen facilities improvements. The New Mexico Public Libraries Bond Issue authorizes the sale and issuance of $9.5 million in bonds for public library improvements. The New Mexico Public Education Bond Issue authorizes the sale and issuance of $156.3 million in bonds for public higher education institutions, special public schools, and native tribal schools.

Including the bond questions, there are five legislatively referred measures appearing on New Mexico ballots in November. The other two measures are constitutional amendments. The New Mexico Elections and Terms of Non-Statewide Officeholders Amendment would allow the state legislature to pass laws adjusting the election dates of state or county officeholders and adjust office terms according to those date changes. The New Mexico Appointed Public Regulation Commission Amendment would change the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from an elected five-member commission to an appointed three-member commission.

New Mexico voters have cast ballots on 25 bond issues, totaling $1.2 billion in value, between January 1, 2006, and January 1, 2020. All but one bond issue question—a $155.57 million bond for higher education—was approved. Between 1995 and 2018, voters approved 85.5 percent of the constitutional amendments on the ballot in the state.

Additional reading:
New Mexico Public Libraries Bond Issue (2020) – Text of the Measure
New Mexico Public Libraries Bond Issue (2020)
New Mexico 2020 ballot measures

Maryland Legislature refers constitutional amendment to 2020 ballot concerning the legislature’s power over the state budget

Maryland Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment would authorize the Maryland General Assembly to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such changes do not make the budget exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor. The amendment is the first measure certified to appear on the statewide ballot in Maryland this November.

Currently, the Maryland General Assembly receives a budget proposal from the governor. The legislature is not allowed to add expenditures to it or reapportion expenditures. It can only reduce the state’s operating budget.

In Maryland, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a 60 percent vote by each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly during one legislative session. The amendment was introduced as Senate Bill 1028 on February 14, 2020, and was sponsored by Democratic Senators Jim Rosapepe, Sarah K. Elfreth, Melony Griffith, Guy Guzzone, Nancy J. King, Douglas J. J. Peters, and Craig J. Zucker. On March 17, 2020, the state Senate passed SB 1028 in a vote of 30-15. On March 18, 2020, the state Legislature passed the amendment in a vote of 95-39. The vote occurred on the last day of the legislative session, which was adjourned early due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 session was originally set to adjourn on April 6, 2020.

The legislature also approved a referendum to authorize sports and event wagering at certain licensed facilities before adjourning. As a legislatively referred state statute, the measure requires the governor’s signature to be certified for the ballot. The measure would also change the uses of the Problem Gambling Fund to target treatments and prevention programs towards individuals with gambling problems that relate to sports wagering.

Since 1996, 34 measures appeared on Maryland ballots. Of that total, 31 were approved, and three were defeated.

Maryland Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment (2020) #Path to the ballot
Maryland 2020 ballot measures

A preview of local charter amendments, school bonds, and taxes that were scheduled for the March 17 ballot in Ohio

Voters in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, and Hamilton County were scheduled to decide eight local ballot measures on March 17, 2020.

On March 16, 2020, Ohio Governor Mark DeWine announced that polls would be closed on March 17, 2020, by the order of the state department of health due to the coronavirus. In-person voting was postponed to June 2.

Three charter amendments—Issues 5, 6, and 7—are on Cleveland ballots. Issue 5 would amend the city charter to allow votes to be counted using Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Systems instead of manual ballot tabulation. DRE systems employ computers that record votes directly into the computers’ memory.

Issue 6 would amend the city charter to limit the annual salary increase of city council members to the salary increase percentage of a majority of city recognized unions. In 2018, the Cleveland City Council received a raise of 4% and earned on average $83,370.

Issue 7 would amend the city charter to allow the first city council meeting in January to be held on the first business day if the first Monday is on a legal holiday.

Cleveland Issues 3 and 4, which concerned reducing the size and salary of the city council, were withdrawn in February by supporters. They will still appear on ballots, but votes for the measures will not be counted.

In Columbus, voters will decide on Columbus State Community College Issue 21, which would authorize the college to issue $300 million in bonds and require an average tax rate of $65 per $100,000 in assessed value. In terms of market value, the average annual tax to repay the bonds was estimated at $22.75 per $100,000 of market value.

Certain voters in Columbus will also decide South Western City School District Issue 20, which would renew a property tax at the rate of $100 per $100,000 of assessed property value to help fund Southwest Public Libraries.

Hamilton County Issue 7 would impose a 0.8% sales tax for 25 years to raise revenue for infrastructure improvements and the Metro transportation system operations.

In Toledo, voters will decide Issue 1, which would authorize the city to increase the local income tax from 2.25% to 2.75% for 10 years beginning July 1, 2020, through December 31, 2030.

Ballotpedia covers local ballot measures on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. Ballotpedia also covers all local measures in California and all statewide ballot measures.

Additional reading:

Maine Question 1 Vaccine Referendum defeated

Maine voters defeat Question 1, the Religious and Philosophical Vaccination Exemptions Referendum, on Tuesday with 72.5 percent of voters against it.

Maine Question 1 would have repealed Legislative Document 798 (LD 798), which was designed to eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools and colleges and for employees of healthcare facilities. With the defeat of Question 1, the elimination of religious and philosophical exemptions will go into effect on September 1, 2021.

Governor Janet Mills (D) signed Legislative Document 798 (LD 798) into law on May 24, 2019. Most legislative Democrats (84 percent) supported the bill. Most legislative Republicans (91 percent) opposed the bill. In June 2019, the campaign committee Mainers for Health and Parental Rights filed paperwork for the veto referendum seeking to repeal LD 798. On September 18, 2019, the campaign filed 95,871 raw signatures, of which 79,056 were found valid. A minimum of 63,067 signatures needed to be valid. On October 17, 2019, Secretary of State Dunlap (D) announced that the veto referendum qualified to appear on March primary ballots.


Alabama Amendment 1 defeated

Alabama voters defeated Amendment 1, the Appointed Education Board Amendment, which would have renamed the Board and changed it from an elected body to an appointed body. According to election night results, 75 percent of voters opposed the amendment, and 25 percent voted in favor of it.

The measure would have amended the Alabama Constitution to rename the State Board of Education as the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education and changed the board members from being elected by voters to being appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The Alabama State Board of Education is an elected executive agency of the Alabama state government, responsible for managing the state’s public K-12 education. The board is composed of nine members, including the governor, who also serves as the president of the board. The other members are elected to four-year terms by voters in one of the state’s eight education districts.

This measure was sponsored by Republican Senator Del Marsh of Alabama’s 12th Senate District. On May 16, 2019, the Alabama State Senate approved SB 397, with 30 members supporting the amendment and five members not voting. On May 31, 2019, the bill was passed by the House in a vote of 78-21 with five members not voting.

Between 1998 and 2018, about 81 percent (72 of 89) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots during even-numbered years were approved, and about 19 percent (17 of 89) were defeated.

Notable local measures on the ballot in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego on Tuesday

California voters will be deciding 289 local ballot measures and one statewide measure on March 3. Here is a preview of four notable measures in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego:

Los Angeles County, Measure R, Civilian Police Oversight Commission and Jail Plan Initiative was put on the ballot through a successful initiative petition campaign that submitted 247,000 signatures to the county clerk. Measure R would authorize the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to develop a plan designed to reduce the jail population and re-incarceration rates and grant the Commission subpoena power to investigate complaints made against the department. Currently, a majority of the nine-member commission must vote to request the Office of the Inspector General to subpoena documents or witnesses. Measure R would give the subpoena power directly to the Commission.

Reform LA Jails is leading the support campaign, Yes on R. As of January 2020, the committee raised $1.9 million in contributions. Over half that amount, $1.2 million, was donated by Cari Tuna, the president of Open Philanthropy Project and Good Ventures. 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 campaigns organized in opposition to the measure.

In San Francisco, voters will be deciding five ballot measures including Proposition E, the City Office Development Limit Initiative. Proposition E was put on the ballot through a successful citizen initiative petition drive sponsored by Housing Forward San Francisco. The measure would limit city office development if the city does not meet annual housing production goals by the percentage of units not produced and set the minimum housing goal 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 if San Francisco does not produce enough housing for “Very Low,” “Low,” and “Moderate” income levels to meet the goal established by Proposition E.

In San Diego County, voters will decide on two related measures—Measure A, Voter Approval for Land Use Amendments to County General Plan and Measure B, General Plan Amendments for Newland Sierra Project. Measure A requires voter approval for amendments to the county’s General Plan that increase population density for semi-rural or rural land classifications. Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside is leading the Yes on A campaign in support of the measure. Planning Today for San Diego’s Future is leading the campaign in opposition to the measure. The current San Diego County General Plan was adopted in 2011.

Measure B amends the county’s General Plan to authorize the development of the Newland Sierra Project, which will include over 2,000 homes, a school, retail space, parks, and open space. The measure was put on the ballot through a successful referendum petition by the No on Newland Sierra campaign. The referendum was filed to repeal the San Diego County General Plan amendment that authorizes the Newland Sierra Project. It was approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors with a 4-0 vote in September 2018. Yes on B for a Better Choice is leading the campaign in support of a “yes” vote on Measure B, which would uphold the amendment passed by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

California polls are opened from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the day of the election.

Additional reading:
Los Angeles County, California, Measure R, Civilian Police Oversight Commission and Jail Plan Initiative (March 2020) 
San Francisco, California, Proposition E, City Office Development Limit Initiative (March 2020) 
San Diego County, California, Measure A, Voter Approval for Land Use Amendments to County General Plan (March 2020) 
San Diego County, California, Measure B, General Plan Amendments for Newland Sierra Project (March 2020)
March 3, 2020 ballot measures in California

New Mexico voters to decide whether to allow changes to the election dates of non-statewide offices

New Mexico Elections and Terms of Non-Statewide Officeholders Amendment (HJR8) was certified for the November 3 ballot on February 20. The measure would amend section 3 of Article XX of the New Mexico Constitution, which relates to the date elected officials assume office. The amendment would allow the state legislature to pass laws adjusting the election dates of state or county officeholders and adjust office terms according to those date changes. Laws proposing adjustments to election dates of non-statewide officeholders would have to be supported by a legislative finding that such a change would promote consistency for the elections of particular offices or more evenly distribute the number of offices appearing on the ballot.

The amendment, House Joint Resolution 8, was introduced on January 29, 2020. The state House approved HJR8 on February 15, with a vote of 59 to 10, with one member absent. The state Senate approved the amendment on February 20, with a vote of 29 to 13. To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority is required in both the New Mexico State Senate and the New Mexico House of Representatives. A simple majority vote of the statewide electorate is required to ratify the amendment.

The amendment was a response to the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that certain provisions of the Election Code and the Nonpartisan Judicial Retention Act (2019) were unconstitutional. The court argued that the 2019 act, which lengthened the terms of certain non-statewide officeholders by shifting the offices to different election cycles, was unconstitutional. In a report to the legislature, the Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D), wrote, “HJR8 is the Legislature’s attempt to properly extend the terms of these officers to align them on the same ballot on the same election year, which would help the SOS and voters by providing consistency and clarity of the ballot.” The 2019 act primarily affects the terms of district attorneys and judicial officers.

The amendment is the second constitutional amendment referred to the 2020 ballot in New Mexico. The New Mexico Appointed Public Regulation Commission Amendment would change the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) from an elected five-member commission to an appointed three-member commission. Between 1995 and 2018, voters approved 85.5 percent of the constitutional amendments on the ballot in the state.

Additional reading:
New Mexico Elections and Terms of Non-Statewide Officeholders Amendment (2020) 
New Mexico 2020 ballot measures

Missouri Senate approves amendment that would make changes to Missouri Amendment 1 passed in 2018

On Monday, the Missouri Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 38 (SJR 38) that would amend Article III of the Missouri Constitution to change certain provisions of Missouri Amendment 1 passed in 2018. SJR 38 was approved in a vote of 22-9. The amendment would enact the following changes:

• eliminate the nonpartisan state demographer and revert back to a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor;
• alter the criteria used to draft district maps;
• change the threshold of lobbyist gifts from $5 to $0; and
• lower the contribution limit for state senate campaigns from $2,500 to $2,400.
The measure must receive a simple majority vote (82 votes) in the state House to appear before voters.

Missouri Amendment 1 (2018) was an initiated constitutional amendment approved with 62% of the vote. The amendment created a position called the non-partisan state demographer, which was tasked with drawing state legislative districts. Amendment 1 required the state demographer and redistricting commissions to consider specific criteria, including what the initiative calls partisan fairness and competitiveness, contiguousness, compactness, and the boundaries of political subdivisions. SJR 38 would require that population size, adherence to voting rights laws, compactness, and boundaries of political subdivisions have a higher priority than partisan fairness and competitiveness in the criteria used for redistricting.

Amendment 1 also prohibited the Missouri State Legislature from passing laws allowing for unlimited campaign contributions to candidates for the state legislature. Amendment 1 established campaign contribution limits for legislative candidates and their committees for a single election cycle to $2,500 per person to a state Senate candidate and $2,000 per person to a state House candidate.

Amendment 1 was sponsored by Clean Missouri. On February 10, the committee reported receiving a $100,000 contribution from the Action Now Initiative after SJR 38 passed the state Senate. In 2018, Clean Missouri and an allied committee, Fight for Reform – Missouri, raised a total of $5.63 million, including $1.01 million from the Action Now Initiative and $1.00 million from the National Education Association. The Missourians First and Advance Missouri PACs, which registered to oppose Amendment 1, raised $343,201.

SJR 38 was introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on February 11.

Additional Reading:

Petitioners of opposing forest initiatives in Oregon sign agreement to work together on regulation

On Monday, petitioners of opposing ballot initiatives designed to change forest regulations in Oregon announced that they had signed an agreement to work together via the legislature rather than the initiative process. Twenty-six groups signed the cooperative memorandum. One side of the debate included groups like Oregon Wild, the Audubon Society of Portland, and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. The other side included timber companies like Stimson Lumber, Roseburg Forest Products, and Weyerhaeuser. Both groups had filed citizen initiatives targeting the 2020 ballot.

The meetings over the past month between the two sides were facilitated by Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office. The agreement focuses on passing changes to the Oregon Forest Practices Act of 1971 with the goal of enacting new legislation by the February 2022 legislative session. The agreement sets up an 18-month process to establish a federally approved habitat conservation plan, which would take into account the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts and the interests of the timber industry. Additionally, the two sides agreed to support a bill that would limit aerial pesticide treatments and allow regulations that would restrict logging near streams in southern Oregon’s Siskiyou region.

At the press conference announcing the agreement, Bob Van Dyk, Oregon and California policy director for the Wild Salmon Center, said, “Today we’re starting a new approach … It’s a path of collaboration toward stronger conservation measures and more certainty for the timber industry.”

Conservation proponents were behind the Oregon Forest Water Protection from Pesticides and Logging Initiatives (Initiatives #45-47) and filed the petitions on October 2, 2019. Earlier versions of the initiatives (#34-36) were rejected by Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno based on Oregon’s single-subject rule for petitions. The initiatives were designed to regulate the use of aerial pesticide treatments and logging near forest water bodies.

Proponents of the Oregon Scientific Standards for Forest Regulation Initiative, the State Board of Forestry Oversight Changes Initiative, and the Compensation for Loss of Property Value Due to State Regulation Initiative (Initiatives #53-56) filed the petitions on November 5, 2019. The measures were designed to add a review process for the State Board of Forestry to determine if forest regulation complies with current science; increase the number of members on the State Board of Forestry and supply rules for filling vacancies and term limits; and amend Oregon’s Constitution to add that landowners must be compensated if they lose all economic value of their property due to state laws that go into effect after January 1, 2020.

Neither side of the agreement has formally withdrawn their petitions from the Oregon Secretary of State.

Read more about the ballot initiatives below: