CategoryBallot measures

Lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania to invalidate the Marsy’s Law ballot measure on the state’s November ballot

In November, Pennsylvania will be the 13th state to vote on Marsy’s Law, an amendment to add crime victims’ rights to the state constitution. The ballot measure would create 15 constitutional rights for crime victims.
 
Lorraine Haw, along with the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania (LWV), filed litigation to invalidate the ballot measure on October 10, 2019. The lawsuit argues that the measure violates the separate-vote requirement for constitutional amendments. Article XI of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads, “When two or more amendments shall be submitted they shall be voted upon separately.” The legal complaint said Haw, a registered voter of Pennsylvania, “cannot vote for the parts of the amendment she agrees with without voting for other things she disagrees with,” which violates her rights. Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) was named as the defendant.
 
Boockvar filed her response to the complaint on October 16, 2019. Boockvar said, “The Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment pertains to a single subject matter — securing victims’ rights in the criminal case in which they suffered direct harm. Every single subpart of the amendment advances this one goal.” The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has scheduled a hearing for October 23, 2019, but a ruling could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
 
Courts have struck down Marsy’s Law in Kentucky and Montana. In Kentucky, the state Supreme Court ruled on June 12, 2019, that the ballot language did not provide enough information to communicate the amendment’s substance to voters. On November 1, 2017, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the Marsy’s Law ballot measure violated the state’s separate-vote requirement.
 
The Pennsylvania State Legislature placed Marsy’s Law on the ballot after approving the proposal during two consecutive legislation sessions (2018 and 2019). The proposal received unanimous support in 2018. In 2019, the proposal received unanimous support in the state Senate, while seven Democrats and one Republican voted against the proposal in the 203-member state House. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced his support for Marsy’s Law in April 2018, saying, “Marsy’s Law will amend the state constitution to provide crime victims with equal protections and participation in the process. Victims and their families deserve equity.”
 
The ACLU of Pennsylvania is opposed to Marsy’s Law. Andy Hoover, communications director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said, “Contrast these [defendants’ rights] with victims’ rights, which arise out of a dispute between two private people. One person’s rights against another person are fundamentally different than a person’s rights against the awesome power of the government. This is why our Constitution, which lays out the restrictions on government power, includes defendants’ rights and why victims’ rights are primarily contained in statute.”
 
Through September 16, 2019, the campaign Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania has received $6 million from the national organization Marsy’s Law for All Foundation. Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corp, founded Marsy’s Law for All Foundation. Marsy’s Law is named after Nicholas’ sister, who was murdered in 1983.
 


Maine will hold a statewide vote on a ballot measure addressing vaccination requirements at presidential primary

On October 17, 2019, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced that the campaign Mainers for Health and Parental Rights filed enough signatures for a veto referendum on whether religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements should be eliminated. The referendum will be on the ballot for the election on March 3, 2020, which will also feature the presidential primary.
 
Mainers for Health and Parental Rights needed to gather 63,067 valid signatures. The campaign filed 95,871 raw signatures, and Dunlap said that 79,056 signatures were valid. The campaign had raised $176,129 through September 30, 2019, and spent $154,982.
 
The veto referendum seeks to repeal Legislative Document 798 (2019), which would eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools and colleges and employees of healthcare facilities. The elimination of religious and philosophical exemptions would go into effect on September 1, 2021. LD 798 would allow students with individualized education plans (IEPs) and who had a religious or philosophical exemption before September 1, 2021, to continue receiving the exemption while in school with a valid statement from a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
 
Maine was the fourth state to prohibit non-medical exemptions from vaccination for students to attend schools. LD 798, however, is now suspended until voters decide the bill’s fate. New York passed a similar law a few weeks after Maine to eliminate non-medical exemptions for students. The other three states are West Virginia, Mississippi, and California.
 
It’s been 97 years since voters across a state decided a vaccination-related ballot measure. In 1922, Washington voters repealed a law to remove vaccination requirements for school attendance. California, along with Maine, could also vote on vaccination requirements in 2020. In California, veto referendums were filed to overturn laws to create a system for reviewing and rejecting medical exemptions from vaccination.
 
The veto referendum is the first ballot measure certified in Maine for 2020. The deadline to file signatures for initiatives to appear on the November 2020 ballot is February 2. The legislature can also refer statutes, such as bond issues, and constitutional amendments to the ballot during the 2020 legislative session. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on even-year statewide ballots in Maine.
 
Maine voters have decided 30 statewide veto referendums. In 18 cases, voters repealed the targeted legislation. In 12 cases, voters upheld the targeted legislation.
 


Looking ahead to Florida’s 2020 ballot questions: what is on the ballot and what could be on the ballot?

One measure is currently certified to appear on the Florida 2020 ballot. Proponents of six measures have collected enough signatures (76,632) to trigger ballot language reviews. Proponents of the $15 Minimum Wage Initiative are about 5,000 signatures away from the 766,200 total required signatures, but also need to meet the state’s distribution requirement.
 
On Sept. 19, the Florida Division of Elections reported that the Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative had qualified for the November 2020 ballot. The measure is sponsored by Florida Citizen Voters and has the support of the national Citizen Voters Inc. Florida Citizen Voters submitted 927,662 valid signatures. To qualify the measure for the ballot, 766,200 valid signatures were required. The measure was originally Initiative #18-14 and will appear on the ballot as Amendment 1.
 
This measure would amend the Florida Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors in Florida.
 
Proponents of six citizen initiatives in Florida have submitted enough valid signatures to trigger a ballot language review by the state supreme court. Sponsors must submit 76,632 valid signatures (10% of the number of signatures required statewide coming from at least seven of Florida’s congressional districts) to trigger a ballot language review by the state supreme court concerning whether or not the measure complies with the single-subject rule and whether or not the ballot title and summary are appropriate.
 
Proponents must submit a total of 766,200 valid signatures to qualify initiatives for the 2020 ballot. Signatures must be verified by February 1, 2020. Since state law gives the secretary of state 30 days to verify signatures, petitioners need to submit signatures on or before January 1, 2020, to guarantee that an initiative qualifies for the ballot in 2020.
 
Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Petitioners are allowed to circulate an initiative for an indefinite period of time, but signatures are valid for a two-year period of time; therefore, proponents must collect all of their signatures for verification within a two-year period.
 
The list below shows which initiatives have enough signatures to trigger a ballot language review and how many signatures are currently valid statewide:
 
 
An additional 11 measures have been filed in 2018 and 2019 targeting the 2020 ballot in Florida, but proponents have not yet submitted enough valid signatures to trigger the supreme court ballot language review. Initiative #19-11, sponsored by Make It Legal Florida, was the most recent filed initiative and would legalize recreational marijuana. It was approved for signature gathering on September 9, 2019, and had 466 signatures unofficially reported as valid by the secretary of state as of October 11, 2019.
 
A total of 91 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Florida between 1996 and 2018, with an average of between seven and eight measures appearing on the ballot during each even-numbered year. Between 1996 and 2018, 75.82% (69 of 91) of statewide measures were approved by voters and 24.18% (22 of 91) were defeated. In Florida, a 60% supermajority vote is required for the approval of a constitutional amendment.


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.
 
Additional reading:
 


Californians to vote on $15 billion school and college facilities bond in March

On March 3, 2020, Californians will vote on a $15 billion bond proposition for school and college facilities. The bond measure is set to appear alongside primaries for president, U.S. House, and the state legislature.
 
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that placed the bond measure on the ballot on Oct. 7. Newsom said, “We are back asking the voters yet again to do what they historically have always done, and that is to embrace our children and embrace their fate and future and do more to do justice to the cause of public education in the state of California.” The legislation received bipartisan support in the California State Legislature, with support from Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans.
 
Of the $15 billion in bonds, $9 billion would be for preschool and K-12 facilities, $2 billion would be for community college facilities, $2 billion would be for University of California facilities, and $2 billion would be for California State University facilities. Around 65 percent of the $9 billion for preschool and K-12 facilities would be allocated to modernization projects, while 35 percent would be allocated to construction projects. The state Department of General Services would consider several variables in determining which modernization and construction applications to prioritize, including projects to address earthquake risks; lead remediation; overcrowding; schools with low tax bases; and schools with higher percentages of English learners, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and foster youth. The state would use the bond revenue to provide matching funds for school districts that cover 60 to 65 percent of modernization costs and 50 to 55 percent of construction costs.
 
The ballot measure would be the largest school-related bond in the state’s history and tie for the second largest in general. The largest was Proposition 1B (2006), which provided $19.9 billion for transportation infrastructure, and the second-largest was Proposition 57 (2004), which provided $15 billion to reduce the state’s deficit. Californians last voted on a school facilities bond measure in 2016, which passed with 55 percent of the vote. The bond measure, titled Proposition 51, issued $7 billion for K-12 education facilities and $2 billion for colleges. Between 1998 and 2019, voters approved five bond measures for school facilities—Proposition 1A (1998), Proposition 47 (2002), Proposition 55 (2004), Proposition 1D (2006), and Proposition 51 (2016).
 
The California State Legislature will consider adding additional ballot measures, including bonds, to the ballot for the general election on November 3, 2020, when legislators reconvene in 2020. Campaigns also have until June 25, 2020, to have signatures verified for citizen-initiated ballot measures to appear on the general election ballot.
 
 


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.
 


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.


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 editor@ballotpedia.org.


Citizen voting initiative certified to appear on Florida’s 2020 ballot

On Sept. 19, the Florida Division of Elections reported that the Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative had qualified for the November 2020 ballot. The measure is sponsored by Florida Citizen Voters and has the support of the national Citizen Voters Inc. Florida Citizen Voters submitted 927,662 valid signatures. To qualify the measure for the ballot, 766,200 valid signatures were required. The measure was originally Initiative #18-14 and will appear on the ballot as Amendment 1.
 
This measure would amend the Florida Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors in Florida.
 
Currently, the state constitution reads: “Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
 
Under the amendment, that constitutional provision would read: “Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.”
 
According to the most recent campaign finance reports available, Florida Citizen Voters reported $2.45 million in cash contributions and $5.84 million in in-kind contributions, all from Citizen Voters, Inc. Between January and July 2019, Florida Citizen Voters reported cash and in-kind expenditures paid to the petition gathering company Let the Voters Decide totaling $7.86 million.
 
A similar amendment is certified to appear on the ballot in Alabama in 2020. Similar initiatives targeting the 2020 ballot were also filed in Colorado and Maine.
 
Voters in North Dakota approved the same proposal, Measure 2, in 2018. The measure amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. Measure 2 was approved by a vote of 66% to 34%.
 
Citizenship is a requirement for voting in most elections in the U.S. Voters in San Francisco approved a measure, Proposition N, in 2016 which allowed non-citizens to register to vote in school board elections. New York City allowed non-citizens to vote in local school board elections from 1968 to 2003 until the city abolished elected school boards. As of 2019, 11 cities in Maryland, including Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Takoma Park allowed non-citizens to vote. Chicago has allowed non-citizens to vote and serve on its school councils since 1989.
 
All state constitutions mention United States citizenship when discussing the qualifications of an elector. Twenty-one (21) states use the specific phrase “Every citizen of the United States…” when discussing who is a qualified elector. An additional 16 states use the word “every” but structure the sentence differently. Six states use the word “all” or “any” when discussing citizenship and suffrage. Six other states have some other way of phrasing the sentence. As of June 2019, North Dakota was the only state to use the phrase “Only a citizen of the United States…” after having changed it from “every” via a constitutional amendment in 2018.
 
 
Map key:
Purple: “Only a citizen of the United States…”
Dark green: “Every citizen of the United States…”
Light green: Uses the term “every”
Dark blue: Uses the terms “any” or “all”
Grey: Unique language concerning citizenship and suffrage


Contributions for and against San Francisco Proposition C surpass $13 million

San Francisco voters will head to the polls on November 5 to decide on six ballot measures, including Proposition C. Prop. C proposes to authorize and regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes. Jennifer Hochstatter, the vice president of supply and demand planning for Juul Labs, filed the successful initiative petition. Juul Labs, headquartered in San Francisco, accounts for over 70 percent of the e-cigarette market in the United States.
 
Juul, which contributed an initial $4 million in loans to the Yes on C: Stop Youth Vaping campaign, gave an additional $7 million in cash contributions on Monday, September 23. The Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation, which is leading the Yes on C: Stop Youth Vaping campaign, reported a total of $11.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions and $4.2 million in cash expenditures through September 25.
 
No on C, San Francisco Kids vs. Big Tobacco is leading the opposition campaign. It reported a total of $2.2 million in contributions through September 25. Michael Bloomberg is the top donor with a total of cash and in-kind contributions of $1.6 million. Bloomberg voiced his opposition to e-cigarettes in a New York Times op-ed, where he argued, “Banning flavored e-cigarettes is the most important thing we can do to reduce use among young people.” On September 10, Bloomberg also announced that his charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies, was launching a $160 million program to combat youth vaping.
 
Other top donors to the opposition campaign include Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.; the American Heart Association; and Arthur Rock.
 
Proposition C would overturn a 2019 law passed by the board of supervisors 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. Proposition C would also enact additional age-verification requirements for vaping product sales, enact rules governing the advertisement of vapor products with regard to minors, and require additional licensing and permitting for businesses selling vapor products.
 
Proposition C is a citizen-initiated measure that required at least 9,485 valid signatures to be certified for the ballot. In San Francisco, an initiative petition proposing a change to city ordinances requires signatures equal to at least 5 percent of the votes cast in the last mayoral election to qualify for the ballot.
 
In November 2018, San Francisco voters also decided five propositions. A combined total of about $13.3 million was contributed in support of and opposition to all five propositions last year. The most expensive measure in November 2018 (also named Proposition C) spurred about $10.9 million in campaign contributions.
 


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