CategoryBallot measures

Colorado Citizen Voters announces submitting 200,000 signatures for 2020 initiative to require Colorado voters to be U.S. citizens

On November 12, 2019, Colorado Citizen Voters, sponsors of Colorado Initiative 76, announced having collected and submitted around 200,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the 2020 ballot. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures are required.
 
This measure would amend the Colorado Constitution to state that only citizens of the United States are qualified electors in Colorado.
 
Constitution as it presently exists: Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.
 
Proposed change under the ballot measure: Only a citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, has resided in this state for such a time as may be prescribed by law, and has been duly registered as a voter if required by law shall be qualified to vote at all elections.
 
Similar amendments are certified to appear on the 2020 ballot in Alabama and Florida.
 
Voters in North Dakota decided on a similar measure, 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%.
 
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 who can vote in that state’s elections. State constitutional language discussing citizenship is inclusive in most states, meaning the language states who can vote (e.g. “every citizen” or “all citizens”), but does not state that non-citizens cannot vote. Arizona and North Dakota have exclusive language, meaning the states’ constitutions require voters to be U.S. citizens exclusively.
 
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. For example, Virginia’s constitution says “Each voter shall be a citizen of the United States” and includes a section in the Bill of Rights that says, “all elections ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage.” North Dakota is 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.
 


Washington residents voted on 15 ballot measures on November 5; here’s what happened

Fifteen statewide ballot measures were on the ballot in Washington on November 5, including three binding statewide ballot measures and 12 non-binding tax advisory votes.
 
Citizen initiated measures:
 
Referendum 88, which was rejected, was a statewide vote on I-1000 (an initiative to allow affirmative action that was approved by the legislature). A yes vote on R-88 was a vote to approve I-1000 and allow affirmative action policies in Washington, and a no vote on R-88 was a vote to reject I-1000 and continue to ban preferential treatment, restricting certain affirmative action policies in Washington. As of November 12, the vote on R-88 was 49.49% in favor to 50.41% against. An estimated 48,000 ballots were left to be counted, but most of them were in counties that had opposed to I-1000 according to already counted ballots.
 
Initiative 976 was approved. It was designed to (1) limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30 except voter-approved charges; (2) base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than 85% of the manufacturer’s base suggested retail price; and (3) repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes. As of November 12, the vote on I-976 was 53.01% in favor to 46.99% against. King County, Seattle, and Sound Transit had announced their intentions to file lawsuits over Initiative 976.
 
Legislative amendment:
 
The state legislature referred one constitutional amendment to the 2019 ballot. The amendment was approved. It authorized the Washington State Legislature to pass bills that address the succession of powers and duties of public offices when the offices’ incumbents and legal successors are unavailable for carrying out the office during periods of catastrophic incidents that are considered emergencies. As of November 12, the vote on the amendment was 65.26% in favor to 34.74% against.
 
Tax advisory votes:
 
The 12 tax advisory votes were nonbinding questions that advised the legislature to repeal or maintain bills passed in the 2019 legislative session that increased taxes. A majority of voters were in favor of maintaining three bills and repealing the other nine. The 12 advisory questions on the ballot this year was the largest number of advisory questions on tax increases in Washington required by the state’s automatic process. There were between three and five in 2017, 2015, and 2013.


Florida $15 Minimum Wage Initiative to appear on 2020 ballot

Florida voters will decide in 2020 whether to raise the state’s minimum wage, which is currently $8.46 per hour. The measure, which will appear on the 2020 ballot as Amendment 2, would increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour on September 30, 2021, and raise the wage by $1 per year until reaching $15 per hour on September 30, 2026. Thereafter, the minimum wage would be adjusted each year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
 
To qualify a citizen initiative for the 2020 ballot in Florida, 766,200 valid signatures are required. In July of 2019, initiative sponsor John Morgan reported having collected more than 1 million signatures for Amendment 2. As of November 11, 2019, the Florida Division of Elections showed that proponents had submitted 768,478 valid signatures and met the state’s 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.
 
Excluding D.C., which has a minimum wage of $14.00 per hour, the average state minimum wage is around $8.68 in 2019. The highest statewide minimum wages based on state law are $12.00 in California, Massachusetts, and Washington. In metropolitan Portland, Oregon, the minimum wage is $12.50. In New York City, the minimum wage is $15.00 for certain employers. The lowest minimum wages based on state law are $5.15 in Georgia and Wyoming, which is lower than the federal government’s requirement (therefore, the federal government’s requirement supersedes state law for most types of employees).
 
Voters throughout the country have decided 27 statewide ballot measures concerning the minimum wage since 1988, all but one of which reached the ballot through initiative signature petitions. The last time voters rejected a minimum wage increase at the ballot was in Missouri and Montana in 1996. The Missouri measure (rejected by a vote of 71% to 29%) would have required all employers to pay employees an hourly minimum wage of $6.25, with a $0.15 annual increase. The Montana measure (rejected by a vote of 56% to 44%) would have re-established a state minimum wage that would have gradually increased from $4.25 an hour to $6.25 an hour by the year 2000.
 
Also on Florida’s 2020 ballot is Amendment 1, which would amend the Florida Constitution to state that only a citizen (rather than every citizen) of the U.S. can vote in Florida.
 
From 1996 to 2018, an average of between seven and eight measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Florida. Of all 91 measures on the ballot between 1996 and 2018, 76% were approved and 24% were defeated.
 


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.”
 


Texas Proposition 10, allowing a retiring law enforcement animal to be transferred to the animal’s handler, is approved by a vote of 94% to

Texas voters approved Proposition 10 in a vote of 94% in favor to 6% against.
 
Under the state’s Local Government Code, a retiring police dog or working animal is classified as salvage or surplus property and, according to code, surplus or salvage property can be auctioned, donated to a civic or charitable organization, or destroyed. According to the Texas Senate Research Center, the existing Local Government Code makes transferring a retiring animal to its handler difficult. Proposition 10 allows agencies to transfer a dog, horse, or another animal to the animal’s handler or another qualified person if the transfer is in the animal’s best interest.
 
Proposition 10’s 94% is the highest approval percentage for a Texas amendment since at least 1888, which is as far back as election results records go in Texas.


Texas voters approve Proposition 4, which bans a state income tax

Proposition 4 added language to the Texas Constitution banning a state income tax on individuals. The vote was 74% in favor to 26% against.
 
Before Proposition 4, the Texas State Constitution required the state legislature to put legislation enacting an income tax before voters as a statewide referendum, which voters could approve or reject. Placing a referendum before voters required a simple majority vote (50%+1) in each legislative chamber. Since Proposition 4’s ban on an income tax is a provision of the Texas Constitution, a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber and a statewide referendum is needed to repeal or amend the ban. Therefore, one of the practical effects of Proposition 4 is to increase the legislative vote requirement to authorize an income tax.
 
The Texas State Legislature placed Proposition 4 on the ballot in one of the narrowest votes between 1995 and 2019. In Texas, a two-thirds vote is required to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, which is equal to 100 votes in the state House and 21 votes in the state Senate, assuming no vacancies. The constitutional amendment received 100 in the state House and 22 votes in the state Senate. Most legislative Democrats (65 percent) opposed Proposition 4. Legislative Republicans, along with 29 percent of legislative Democrats, supported the constitutional amendment.
 
The current Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876. Voters had addressed 677 proposed amendments before 2019, approving 498 (73.6%) and rejecting 179 (26.4%). The rate of approval has been higher in recent years, with 91.2 percent being approved since 1995.


Texas Proposition 1 is the first constitutional amendment to be defeated in Texas since 2011

Voters rejected Texas Proposition 1, which would have allowed elected municipal judges to hold office in multiple municipalities at the same time. The vote was 65% against and 35% in favor. Proposition 1 is the first constitutional amendment to be rejected in Texas since 2011, when three measures were defeated. Proposition 1 was put on the ballot by the state legislature, where it received the unanimous support of Republicans and Democrats in both legislative chambers.
 
The current Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876. Voters had addressed 677 proposed amendments before 2019, approving 498 (73.6%) and rejecting 179 (26.4%). The rate of approval has been higher in recent years, with 91.2 percent being approved since 1995.


Voters in New Jersey approve statewide measure to extend veterans’ property tax deductions to continuing care retirement communities

New Jersey residents voted to extend the $250 property tax deduction that veterans receive to continuing care retirement centers on behalf of the veterans living there and require the retirement centers to pass the value of the deduction on to veterans in the form of credits or payments. The vote was 76% to 24%.
 
As of 2019, veterans who were honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances were eligible to receive a $250 deduction from their property tax bill in New Jersey. Surviving spouses of honorably discharged veterans who are deceased or soldiers who died on active duty during war could also claim the deduction.
 
Question 1 extends the $250 property tax deduction that veterans receive to continuing care retirement centers on behalf of the veterans living there. The ballot measure requires the continuing care retirement center to provide the $250 to an eligible veteran, or an eligible surviving spouse of a veteran or soldier, as a payment or credit. Continuing care retirement centers that are tax-exempt are ineligible to receive the deductions under the measure.


74% of PA voters voted in favor of Marsy’s Law, though election results cannot be certified pending a court ruling

A majority of Pennsylvania voters voted in favor of a measure to add specific rights of crime victims, together known as a Marsy’s Law, to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The vote was 74% to 26%.
 
On October 30, 2019, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court enjoined Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar from counting or certifying election results. The preliminary injunction resulted from a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters that argues the measure violates the state’s separate vote requirement by combining multiple changes to the constitution into one measure. Wanda Murren, communications director of the state department, said the court’s order “does not prohibit the counties from following any of their normal election procedures,” which means results were available on election night.
 
A similar situation happened with a Marsy’s Law in Kentucky last year. Courts ruled that the ballot language for the Kentucky amendment did not sufficiently inform voters and that the amendment was invalid. The preliminary ruling happened too late to take the measure off the ballot, so voters saw it on the ballot, and 63% approved it. The measure was in limbo until seven months later when the Kentucky Supreme Court give the final ruling, officially invalidating the measure.
 
Montana’s 2016 Marsy’s Law amendment was also struck down by a post-election ruling. In that case, the ruling was based on the state’s separate vote requirement
 
As of 2019, voters in 12 states had approved a ballot measure for Marsy’s Law. The first was in California in 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, voters had approved Marsy’s Law in 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). Wisconsin is scheduled to vote on Marsy’s Law on April 7, 2020. Ballotpedia identified $102.26 million in total contributions to the support campaigns for the 12 Marsy’s Law ballot measures that were on ballots between 2008 and 2018. Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., and the organization Marsy’s Law for All provided 97 percent—about 99.3 million—of the total contributions. Marsy’s Law is named after Henry Nicholas’ sister, who was murdered in 1983.
 


Jersey City voters approve measure authorizing regulations on short-term rental properties

Jersey City voters approved Question 1, authorizing certain regulations and restrictions on short- term rental properties. The vote was 69% in favor to 31% against.
 
The approval of Jersey City Question 1 enacted certain restrictions and regulations on renting out short-term rental properties (such as Airbnb and VRBO), including the following:
  • limitations on what properties/units are eligible for use as short-term rentals, including certain owner-occupation and zoning requirements;
  • a prohibition on using a property as a short-term rental for more than a total of 60 nights per year if the owner/operator is not present;
  • a prohibition on using property with rental rates controlled by government regulations or other rent control limitations in place;
  • rules for short term rental permits and permit fees of an initial $250 application fee and $200 per year for renewal after that; and
  • other regulations and restrictions.
 
The measure was put on the ballot through a successful referendum petition effort backed by opponents of Ordinance 19-077, which the Municipal Council of the City of Jersey City voted into law on June 25, 2019. Vote Yes JC, sponsored by the Share Better Education Fund, led the campaign in support of a yes vote Question 1. Keep Our Homes JC led petition effort to put the measure on the ballot and the campaign supporting a no vote on Question 1. Airbnb supported a no vote on the question while the Hotel Association of New York City (HANYC) and the New York Hotel Trades Council (NYHTC) supported a yes vote.
 


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